3 Common Reasons to Use Calf Compression Sleeves
Most of the time, the biggest advocates of calf compression sleeves are runners and athletes who know all too well how painful their muscles can become after a long day of training, or competing. During an average day, your calves take quite a bit of punishment - as they help to absorb some of the shock that comes from pounding the pavement, as well as supporting your weight as you walk to work, stand in line for coffee, or take the stairs to the bathroom. You can only imagine the degree to which the pressure on your calves is maximized during a running session.
However, it's not just runners that can benefit from calf compression sleeves. The science behind compression actually offers useful advantages to people in a number of situations, from avoiding swelling, to dealing with frequent cramps. Even sitting in front of a computer screen in the office for too long can do some damage to your calf muscles, as they struggle to get the right amount of blood, oxygen, and nutrients supplied by proper circulation.
Following, we'll address just some of the most common reasons to use calf compression sleeves, and how they can help you.
1. Correcting Restless Leg Syndrome
Plenty of people suffer from restless leg syndrome. Best case scenario, you struggle with twitching and discomfort when you're at work, and can push through the pain. Worst case scenario - you're kept awake all night by a muscle that simply will not relax. Wearing a calf compression sleeve at night, or even through the day while you're at work, could help to reduce the chances of suffering from restless leg syndrome by prompting better circulation in your legs, for warmer, happier muscles.
2. Preventing Clotting
If you spend most of your life in an office cubicle, are currently restricted to bed rest, or spend most of your professional time on long-haul flights, then you may find that you're more susceptible to blood clots as a result of inactivity. Compression sleeves can help to prevent clots from forming in the legs by providing the right amount of graduated pressure to combat gravity, and improve blood flow. Just make sure that you don't rely on your compression sleeves to do all of the work - you still need to stretch and move around frequently too!
3. Calf and Leg Cramps or Swelling
Athletes often get cramps in their legs after a particularly daunting workout or run, but they're not the only people to suffer from this discomfort. Cramping in the calf is one of the best reasons to use calf compression sleeves, because the problem is caused by restricted circulation in the legs - the exact thing compression works to relieve. Cramps are more common when you're pregnant, suffer from mineral depletion, or have regular problems with your lower back. Similarly, as you get older, or when you're pregnant, the lack of circulation can cause blood to pool in your lower legs, causing swelling. Compression can be a good way to prevent swelling, but if the problem persists, you will need to see a doctor.
The calves can easily suffer from a wide range of different aches, pains and injuries - particularly if you live a relatively active lifestyle. After all, the more time you spend on your feet, the more your calves need to support the remaining weight of your body, keeping your posture straight and your body upright.
Unfortunately, although we all know how important it is to live an active lifestyle wherever possible - particularly when it comes to avoiding things like cardiovascular disease and diabetes - regular running, exercising, or even walking can be enough to cause problems like leg cramps, and Achilles tendonitis.
The best solution for such problems will depend on your specific circumstances - which is why it's crucial to seek out the assistance of a professional doctor whenever you start to experience pain in your legs. However, some studies and intensive research have begun to find that calf compression could be particularly useful for Achilles tendonitis, leg cramps, and pain relief.
Calf Compression for Leg Cramps and Pain Relief
To really understand how calf compression works for leg cramps and pain relief, we first need a basic understanding of how the systems within the body work - particularly in relation to blood flow.
The heart pumps oxygen throughout our extremities and muscles using arteries as pathways. Once at its destination, the nutrients and oxygen within our blood is absorbed by the cells in the muscles and body parts, leaving deoxygenated blood behind, along with waste products like lactic acid. This substance must then be transferred back to the heart through the veins, where it can be oxygenated again, and the process can be repeated.
Keeping oxygenated blood flowing properly to muscles is crucial for performance. The more oxygen the cells get, the better they will function. During exercise, the body produces excess lactic acid as a waste product, and if this product is not removed from the muscles, it can lead to soreness, and limit a person's ability to perform by causing pain, and cramping. Calf compression helps the situation by providing graduated pressure that is tighter towards the ankle, and looser towards the knee. This form of compression helps to fight back against the effects of gravity, and assist the body in the venous return of deoxygenated blood to the heart.
The results of compression to fight back against pain and cramping are significant. Arterial blood flow has been shown in some studies to increase by 40% during activity, and 30% during recovery with the help of compression - meaning more nutrients and oxygen flowing throughout the body. At the same time, the constricted veins will increase the velocity of the blood flowing within them, meaning that deoxygenated blood returns to the heart faster, and increases the rate of recovery by banishing lactic acid. For leg cramps and pain relief - few things are more effective than good compression.
Calf Compression for Achilles Tendonitis
So we've established that calf compression can be effective for basic issues like soreness and leg cramping, but what about when the problem goes further - a more serious condition, like Achilles Tendonitis?
Achilles Tendonitis, sometimes referred to as tendinopathy, or tendinosis - is a common condition frequently caused by various physical things that we do every day, including running, jumping, dancing, and walking. The Achilles tendons are responsible for connecting the muscles in your calves to the heel bones in your lower legs, and Achilles Tendonitis takes place when the tendon becomes painful and inflamed after excessive use.
Though some cases of Achilles Tendonitis will require treatment from a medical professional, many people find that they can treat the majority of symptoms at home - specifically if they're willing to use the RICE method, and calf compression.
In cases of Achilles Tendonitis, calf compression can be used to limit swelling, and offer extra support to the damaged area. While some people prefer to use compression around the ankle itself, calf compression can be equally helpful, as it promotes the flow of blood in the adjoining muscles, and therefore quickens the speed of recovery after injury. At the same time, calf compression will provide extra support to the muscles in your lower leg as you move and walk, meaning that you're less likely to place additional stress on the already injured tendon. This will help to decrease the presence of pain, and allow for quicker healing.
Remember to be Cautious with Compression Treatment
Though many experts agree that compression can be a fantastic solution when it comes to dealing with cramps and pain relief - including even issues like Achilles Tendonitis - it's crucial that you are cautious about the kind of compression that you use, and the sleeve that you select for your particular leg. Remember that most good compression sleeves will not have a one-size-fits-all option, which means that you'll need to focus on selecting the size that provides the best results for your needs.
A good rule of thumb to live by, is that your compression sleeve should not be so tight that it leads to increased throbbing or pain in the foot or toes - but it should be tight enough to exert some kind of pressure. When treating an injury through compression, it's generally a good idea to keep the compression sleeve on for the first twelve hours - but if you notice that it feels too tight, your toes become pale, or the pain increases, you will need to remove the sleeve as quickly as possible.
Can Calf Compression Really Remove Pain?
Calf compression sleeves can be ideal for everything from calf cramps and shin splints, to strains and tendonitis. However, it's worth remembering that these solutions will not cure the condition if the only thing you're doing to improve your circumstances is wearing compression garments. All injuries need to be assessed by a professional so that you can target the real issue behind the pain.
That being said, wearing compression gear can help you to make your injury feel better as you recover - particularly when combined with stretching, massage, and proper exercise techniques.