If you're brand new to the running scene, or you've been exercising recreationally for some time now, the chances are you've seen people wearing compression clothing at some point. From bandages that help to keep their knees free from joint pain, to compression calf sleeves designed to reduce injury risk and maximize performance, compression tech is becoming increasingly popular across the United States. You might have even begun to ask yourself, "Do compression sleeves work for preventing calf cramps and shin splints?"
While your experience of compression wear will be unique to your condition, it can be helpful to learn more about how this technology works, and which problems it can help.
Compression Sleeves and Oxygenated Blood
To really answer the question: "Do compression sleeves work?" We first need to understand how blood flows throughout the body. While the heart pumps oxygenated blood to our extremities and muscles, these cells use the oxygen and other nutrients to function at their best. Without oxygenated blood, the muscles would suffocate and struggle to perform, leading to cramps and pain. In simple terms, your body needs oxygenated blood for good performance, and the more oxygen you give your cells, the better they will function.
Another thing to keep in mind is that during exercise, the body produces lactic acid as a waste product - a substance that can contribute to muscle fatigue and soreness when not removed. At the same time, muscular vibration during physical activity increases fatigue - just think about how much shock your leg muscles are absorbing as you pound the pavement on a run.
How do Compression Sleeves work to Improve Performance?
Now that you know what your muscles and blood are doing while you run, we can explore what compression sleeves do to help. High-quality compression sleeves provide graduated compression, which means they're tighter at the ankle, and looser as they reach the top of the calf. This graduated compression fights the effects of gravity and assists in returning deoxygenated blood to the heart so that it can be replaced with oxygenated blood.
Studies have suggested that an optimal level of consistent compression allows the walls of the arteries to dilate, increasing blood flow by 30% during recovery, and 40% during activity. This means more nutrients and oxygen flowing throughout the body. At the same time, compression constricts the walls of the veins in the body, increasing flow velocity to return deoxygenated blood and lactic acid to the heart quicker, increasing recovery rate and decreasing muscle fatigue and soreness.
The Benefits of Compression
Compression offers a wide range of benefits, from enhanced performance through increased blood flow, to better recovery and decreased swelling and muscle soreness. If you're concerned about calf cramps, shin splints, and Achilles tendonitis, compression sleeves could be the answer when it comes to improving recovery. However, keep in mind that compression technology cannot cure any existing conditions by themselves. Speak to your doctor if you're dealing with a chronic or progressive problem in your joints and muscles. Just remember that compression sleeves could be able to help at preventing, and managing pain.