On this episode of The Omega Sports Move More Podcast, hosted by Dr. Scott Jablonka with Carolina Movement Doc, discover why compression garments can help with your fitness regimen.
What are compression garments?
Compression garments usually come in the form of socks or calf compressions. They can range from long leg compression to upper body compression, and full-on top and bottom compression garments. The most popular reason to wear compression garments is swelling in the legs or arms, prevention of DVT, circulatory issues and recovery from exercise.
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They range in intensity of compression, and they’re measured in millimeter mercury (mmHg). The most widespread are typically mild and medium, about 8 to 15 mmHg, not a lot of compressions, but you can feel it. Firm is 20-30 mmHg, extra firm is 30-40 mmHg, and then there’s prescription-strength compression.
Do compression garments help with performance?
Garments are worn for performance typically fall within the medium to mild compression (8-15, 15-20 mmHg). The main reason why one would wear this type of compression garment is that the compression will decrease the muscle vibration during exercise, which in turn decreases micro trauma.
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Dr. Jablonka typically sees this with heavy lifters and endurance athletes, specifically triathletes. Dr. Jablonka prefers calf compression sleeves. The reason is, when he ran for long distances and did the 1st brick, which is a swim-bike combo, then a bike-run combo, his right calf would cease up. He tried some compression, and it worked. He wears long leg compression from Virus when heavy lifting.
The research behind the performance with compression garments
Very limited evidence to objectively measure performance enhancements. Research doesn’t really dive into whether these compression garments help you from a performance standpoint. Researchers measured physiologic markers in the body with compression, and without it, and they compared the results. Did people who wore compression garments have exponentially or statistically significant increases in strength and endurance, as opposed to the test group? The widespread answer was no, there was not enough evidence to make a substantial difference. In the world of performance physiologically, Dr. Jablonka can’t say with confidence that compression helps athletes.
Does Dr. Jablonka still wear them? Yes, he does, because he thinks it helps him and that is enough.
Do compression garments help with recovery?
Memorial Day Murph is a one-mile run, followed by 100 pull-ups, followed immediately by 200 push-ups, followed by 300 bodyweight air squats, followed by another one-mile run. The kicker is you have to wear 20 lbs. vest the entire time. It’s a lot of microtraumas placed on your body. It beats your body up, and in the end, you end up with a lot of pride for your country. But also, in the end, you’re going to end up sore, and soreness is where we come in and talk about recovery.
We need to look at the recovery factors, physiologic measurements, they are tangible measurements that we can use as medical professionals and as smart athletes, to see the rationale of why we do what we do. The measurements are DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness, this is soreness felt typical 48 to 72 hours after a workout), perceived fatigue and muscle damage, and inflammatory markers (measured through the blood).
Looking at the research about recovery, this is where the compression garments shine. In 2018, there was a meta-analysis that concluded that compression garments were effective at reducing DOMS and perceived fatigue, post-workout. It was 2nd only to massage/bodywork. Dr. Jablonka usually advises getting both a massage and wearing compression garments when asked which out of two should someone pick.
Medical uses of compression garments
Dr. Jablonka sees a lot of post-operative patients in the clinic and in the gym, specifically full knee replacements, ACL reconstruction, arthroscopies, hip replacements. Anything lower-body that’s going to leave someone with a lot of trauma
to the joints above and a sedentary lifestyle during the recovery process.
This is where the compression garments come into play, specifically medium to firm.
We don’t want these patients to develop DVT (deep vein thrombosis). Why is this important? Blood clots, when they become dislodged, travel up the venous system, go through the heart, and may get lodged in the lungs. This is known as a pulmonary embolism.
Along with some pharmaceutical medications, compression garments help prevent DVT in postoperative patients. Some of Dr. Jablonka’s veteran athletes typically have some sort of swelling vascularity issues, and in most cases, they are very painful. Many times, a vascular specialist will recommend some sort of compression garment, usually knee-high socks,
and it absolutely helps.
Do compression garments work?
The fields in which we see compression garments are performance, recovery, and the medical world. For performance, the research doesn’t support it, but the athletes still wear them, including Dr. Jablonka. Sometimes mentally is enough.
Recovery is where the research lies. And it’s always been in the medical world, and it’s going to stay in the medical world. If you want to recover better, and you don’t want to seek out the help of a massage therapist (even though Dr. Jablonka recommends it), then get yourself a nice pair of compression garments. They are very beneficial, they are comfortable, they provide you with a little bit of warmth, especially in the winter months.
Dr. Jablonka doesn’t want you to shy out of using them when you work out. If you’re going on really long runs, if you’re doing some heavy lifting, some nasty negative splits, trying to knock that extra minute off your 5K, venture down the road of compression garments.
If it makes you feel like you’re performing better, you perform better. Sometimes, the placebo effect is the desired effect.
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