Whether you've engaged in a hardcore weightlifting session, picked up your running shoes and headed out to the track, or simply spent a couple of hours at the gym - you probably know that sore muscles can be a common complaint for those with an active lifestyle. Importantly, it's worth noting that this soreness doesn't necessarily indicate that you're unfit or out of shape. In fact, some of the most seasoned athletes suffer from periods of muscle soreness and even injuries after workouts.
If you're working out for the first time in years, you're bound to experience some sore muscles for a few days afterward - even if you eat all the right foods, and it's important to recognize that muscular recovery forms an important part of any exercise regimen.
While there are many ways that you can reduce the discomfort that you feel, from being cautious about how far you choose to push your body, to ensure you wear your calf compression sleeve on aching legs after a run, it's worth noting that there is a connection between compression sleeves and muscle recovery, and here we're going to explore it further. Even Vogue agrees that compression sleeves are the way to go for workout and recovery boosts!
Speeding Up Muscular Recovery
By far, one of the best ways you can deal with sore muscles is to give your body the time and space it needs to heal naturally. Most of the time, typical workout strain will take a few days to abate, while more serious injuries will require additional time and may even need medical intervention.
When you suffer from a general workout strain, your muscles will not have suffered an injury - the problem will simply be caused by overexertion, such as standing on your feet for several hours, or walking too far. The reason that injured muscles take longer to recover, is that damaged fibers will have to rebuild and regrow - a process that is bound to take time.
Whether you're recovering from a general strain, or a muscle injury, various activities can assist muscular recovery, including everything from light exercise, to gentle stretching, and regular rest periods. Many experts suggest a combination of:
- Massage: Massage helps to promote muscle relaxation, reducing painful contractions, spasms, and soreness. In some cases, massage with the jets of a hot tub can be enough to promote faster healing and less discomfort.
- Cold Water Immersion: Some athletes suggest that cold water immersion, or icing the affected limbs can be helpful when increasing circulation and promoting faster healing - a process that uses some of the same concepts as your calf compression sleeve.
- Compression: Compression sleeves and muscle recovery have a very important connection. To some, simply wrapping the sore muscle with an elastic bandage may not seem like much, but the graduated pressure promotes blood flow, and limits muscle movement, allowing for reduced pain and faster healing.
How Your Calf Compression Sleeve Works (According to Science)
Growing bodies of research have begun to establish the connection between compression sleeves and muscle recovery, showing that the graduated pressure can help to speed up the rehabilitation period after noticeable muscle damage. For example, writers in the British Journal of Sports Medicine reported that their analysis of previous studies into the subject found that using compression sleeves promoted a moderately positive effect for athletes after they engaged in workouts which typically resulted in DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness). In other words, the use of a calf compression sleeve could help to lessen the severity and duration of DOMS.
For active runners, DOMS typically takes place after running on courses that include steep uphill or downhill sections - however it's worth noting that muscle pain can occur whenever you engage in exercise that is more challenging than you're typically used to. Two thirds of athletes wearing compression gear after workouts that are known to cause muscle damage have found that these sleeves help to lessen the severity of the pain. What's more, compression sleeves worn after tough workouts can also help to lessen the decreases in muscle power and strength that can occur as a result - meaning that you can return to your regular training routine more quickly.
Other reviews of research have been able to support the same conclusions - finding that compression gear is incredibly effective when it comes to muscular recovery. Although the reasons why compression gear is so useful in this manner have yet to be demonstrated on any empirical level, most researchers suggest that the external pressure from the gear helps to reduce the space available in which for swelling to occur, while promoting better blood flow for the delivery of oxygen and nutrients to damaged muscles.
Remember Rest and Recovery
Importantly, although there's clearly something to be said for compression sleeves and muscle recovery, those attempting to avoid discomfort should take notice of other recovery tips too. For example, getting plenty of sleep and finding ways to rest your body can be some of the most effective ways to support self-treatment. What's more, active recovery (which involves light exercise during the recovery phase), can help to stimulate blood flow to the affected muscles, and therefore reduce muscle pain.
Most doctors and health experts agree that aside from compression therapy, patients recovering from muscle strains and injuries should focus on getting quality sleep and rest wherever possible. After all, sleep isn't just a great way to relax, it's also the action that gives your body the necessary downtime it needs to restore itself. As always, the ideal target to hit for sleep is around seven hours, although you might find that you need to up that period to nine hours if you're suffering from serious pain and discomfort. Though it might seem impossible to get all of that extra time in bed into your schedule, it's important to make temporary changes that allow you to get to bed earlier and speed up the recovery process.
Above all else, muscular recovery after an intense workout, training session, or even just an accidental injury is about looking after your body with everything from compression, to sleep, to a trip to the doctor when the situation deems it necessary.