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What is compression sleeves and what is it used for?

What is it?

This is a series of garments that perfectly fit the wearer's anatomy, compressing the muscles and providing a number of benefits, such as improved blood circulation and a reduction in the shock and vibration generated by activities such as walking or running. Each garment has a different pressure of 30 to 40 mmHg, making it ideal for sports. Over time, these garments have become a valuable alternative therapy for the treatment of all kinds of problems related to blood circulation, recovery from muscle injuries and improvement of sports performance.

What are they used for?

Originally, doctors recommended compression garments to postoperative patients to stimulate muscle recovery and activate blood flow for better tissue regeneration, as well as to facilitate the body's reactivation after anesthesia within 48 hours of leaving the operating room. However, over time, other benefits have been discovered.

In the 1980s, it began to be recommended for improving the quality of life of patients with circulatory disorders and even for solving aesthetic problems such as varicose veins on the legs. By the 1990s it was being used in elite sports by track and field athletes and gymnasts, and today it is used by runners, footballers, basketball players, cyclists, fitness enthusiasts and athletes of all kinds.

This is because it works perfectly to reduce the load on muscles during moderate and vigorous physical activities and improve blood circulation, so that muscles have better blood flow and can absorb nutrients more efficiently. All of this supports muscle performance during activity and cellular recovery during rest periods.

How do they work?

These compression garments work by exerting pressure on the muscles to which they are applied. This pressure, which ranges from 20 mmHg to 40 or 50 mmHg, causes compression of the fibers, allowing better blood circulation during use, which significantly reduces fatigue.

This muscle compression, in turn, minimizes the vibrations generated by movements such as walking, running or jumping, and maintains the elasticity and resistance of the soft tissues in the area of use. It also provides joint stability and, above all, helps improve the postural hygiene of the user, avoiding the endless pain caused by poor posture.

Types of compression garments for men and women

  • Wrist braces: These are small one-piece garments that enclose the wrist and provide additional stability to the joint so that its ligaments and tendons are not strained. They usually have a Velcro closure for the wrist.
  • Elbow braces: these are cylindrical garments that fit over the spleen and conform to the elbow. They come in two styles: as a single garment that conforms to the anatomy of the joint, or as open models that are adjusted with buckles or Velcro.
  • Shoulder support: they are generally used for therapeutic purposes. They are splint-shaped and are used to support the shoulder to immobilize the joint during recovery and pain. Elastic compression shoulder straps are often used to protect the joint during exercise and allow for greater range of motion.
  • Thigh sleeves: these are cylindrical garments that attach to the quadriceps and biceps femoris muscles of the legs. They are primarily used to reduce shock and vibration during activities such as walking, running or jumping, but are also commonly used for patients with circulatory problems.
  • Knee braces: As with elbow braces, there are two designs: a cylindrical design that is pulled over the knee to provide stability during athletic activities, and an open design with Velcro closure that is used more for post-surgical and rehabilitation purposes.
  • Ankle braces: these are garments that are anatomically fitted to the ankle and are generally used to immobilize the joint during the healing process after sprains. During physical activity, compression socks are worn that cover the entire foot up to the calf.
  • Back support belt: this is an open garment that is attached to the lower back with Velcro straps. It can be used by athletes to add stability to the lower back, or by patients with herniated discs or sciatica who need extra support to keep the discomfort at bay. They are also commonly used to protect the lower back in occupations where the back is subjected to constant stress.
  • Sacroiliac hip support belts: these are open garments that wrap around the hip and provide adjustable compression. They are commonly used by people with hip problems because they improve hip and lower back strength. They can also be useful for preventing injuries such as back pain or herniated discs.
  • Calf compression sleeves: These cylindrical garments resemble long socks but cover only the calf and not the foot. They can be worn by athletes who play sports that create a lot of vibration in the legs from running and jumping, or by people who want to relieve circulation problems in everyday life.
  • Compression socks: these are garments made of highly elastic materials such as spandex that create an additional pressure between 20 mmHg and 40 mmHg. They provide stability and protection for the muscles and joints of the feet, ankles and calves. There are even longer models that reach mid-thigh.

Health and sports benefits of compression clothing

  • Improved athletic performance: several medical studies have shown that compression garments improve the performance of athletes, as they lead to less wear and tear during training or competition by stimulating better blood circulation. In other words, muscles become more resistant.
  • Reduction of muscle fatigue: By improving blood circulation, there is a positive effect that significantly reduces muscle fatigue, allowing the athlete to perform longer and be less likely to contract or cramp.
  • Prevention of sports injuries: Most sports injuries are muscular in nature, and these in turn are caused by wear and tear and accumulated tension due to the effects of the actions in the sport in question. These are minimized by compression garments that better absorb the vibrations of the muscles when running or jumping.
  • Accelerates muscle recovery: Wearing compression garments during an injury compresses muscle fibers, providing better blood flow that, when combined with other conventional therapies such as cryotherapy and physical therapy, promotes cell recovery.
  • Improved blood circulation: compressing the muscle fibers creates a firmer and more compact area where blood circulation is much better, a factor that creates a chain reaction of benefits for the body.
  • Better oxygenation of the blood: they allow a better assimilation of oxygen in the blood, which translates into a better quality of blood flow, which in turn better oxygenates the muscle fibers and makes them healthier through better absorption of nutrients.
  • Elimination of toxins: By improving blood flow, the elimination of toxins in the body is also greatly improved, benefiting not only the muscles but the entire body.
  • Reduces vibration: Compression of muscle fibers results in a more impact-resistant area and reduces the effects of vibrations generated during running or jumping, minimizing the risk of injury.
  • Improved postural hygiene: compression garments, such as shoulder supports or lumbar supports, help improve posture by relieving pressure on the back and all nerves, reducing the risk of neck and back pain.
  • Increased stability and support: muscles and joints where compression garments are worn receive additional support from tendons and ligaments, improving overall stability and reducing the likelihood of sprains.
  • Maintains body heat: Another important feature is that it maintains body temperature during and after exercise while being breathable. It provides comfort and warmth while training or competing in cold weather. Compression garment has a thermoregulating effect in hot and cold weather.
  • It prevents chafing and blistering: Wearing seamless compression garments in areas that rub against the skin, such as ankle straps or compression tights that cover the crotch, minimizes the occurrence of chafing and blisters.

F.A.Q: Frequently asked questions

How to choose the right size of compression clothes?

Compression garments are not the same size as regular clothing because everyone's body is different, which affects the amount of pressure the garment puts on your body. Any error in these measurements can even have the opposite of the desired effect.

For specific garments such as knee braces, calf sleeves, thigh sleeves, elbow braces or wrist braces, you should measure the circumference of the joint and compare these measurements to the manufacturer's specifications to choose the correct size. Remember that this type of garment should fit snugly against the body, but without restricting blood circulation or causing pain. This determines whether the wearer should choose size S, M, L or XL.

What are the types of compression levels?

Compression garments are generally classified according to the pressure in mmHg (millimeters of mercury) that they exert on the wearer's body.

In this sense, we can find garments with the following pressure levels:

  • Gentle compression: these are garments with a pressure between 8 and 15 mmHg, used for the prevention of circulatory disorders, reticular varicose veins and the treatment of tired legs.
  • Medium or therapeutic compression : The pressure ranges from 20 to 40 mmHg and is beneficial for slightly swollen legs, small varicose veins or leg discomfort during pregnancy.
  • Medical compression: These garments have a pressure of 20 to 40 mmHg, in some cases up to 50 mmHg, and are used when you want to improve blood circulation during prolonged standing or sitting, for the treatment of muscle and joint pain and during sports.
  • High Compression: these garments create a pressure of 40-60 mmHg and are used to treat conditions such as primary lymphedema, post-decongestive therapy or severe post-thrombotic syndrome.

How to wash and care for the compression garment?

Materials such as spandex or neoprene are more delicate than other types of fabric. To avoid damaging the fibers and losing the compression properties of the garments , it is recommended to follow the instructions below:

  • Wash in cold water on the gentle cycle
  • Hand wash is preferred
  • Do not bleach
  • Do not tumble dry
  • Do not iron
  • Do not use soap with fabric softener
  • Do not bleach

Are there contraindications to the use of compression garments?

Although compression garments are safe in most cases, they should be avoided in people with any of the following specific medical conditions:

  • Advanced arterial insufficiency
  • Severe heart disease
  • Peripheral neuropathy
  • Disabled persons who cannot remove the garment themselves
  • Pulmonary edema
  • Heart failure
  • Severe nerve disorders in the arms and legs
  • In case of open or infected wounds