The newest thing in the athletic world is compression everything. About two years ago I started having a hard time with my calf muscles. Every time that I would go for a long distance run, there was almost like a tear in my calf, and suddenly I would have a hard time walking, and running was out of the question. The minute that it would heal and I would be back out on the trail, pop it would go. I decided to give compression wear a try.
The theory behind compression wear is that it is supposed to fit tightly and compress the muscles in the body to improve blood flow to them and keep them firmly in place to stave off injury. A new thing in the fitness industry, compression wear sounded like the perfect solution to my calf’s injury issues.
Proponents of compression wear believe that it not only increases blood circulation, but it also helps to deliver oxygen to your muscles and remove acids, like lactic acid, that can build up and cause damage. Like a super speedy prevention-recovery all in one, it sounded like it was exactly what I needed.
There is very little evidence in the scientific world to support the theory that compression wear has any relation to the health of your muscle's injury repair or performance. Studies done just don’t point to any enhanced effect at all for those who wear compression gear or very little.
When it comes to recovery speed time, the only difference that researchers have found is that, if you wear compression garments, not just while exercising, but for the 24 hours following, it might improve your recovery time.
When it comes to injury, compression aids might help in the treatment of injuries because it increases blood flow and stops one of the biggest precursors to injury, which is inflammation. For the lower limbs, it can help to stop blood clotting and other medical issues, which is why it remains standard practice for people with chronic blood conditions and illnesses like diabetes. There is also minimal evidence that it can help with restless leg syndrome and muscle cramps in the lower extremities.
Very little evidence supports the theory that it can help enhance the performance of athletes who require small and explosive movements like basketball or soccer, but when the performance is noticed, there is no way to rule out the psychosomatic effect that wearing compression gear might have. The placebo effect via the mind’s ability to make reality, is a very powerful tool, perhaps even more powerful than reality itself.
So, the conclusion to my queue about whether compression gear really works and whether it would save my calf from injury personally was “no”. I didn’t get rid of my injury until I took a break and really allowed it to heal before I hit the pavement. That was my only savior, sorry for those of you who don’t want to wait like I didn’t.
But, when it comes to medical conditions there are consistent findings that compression wear might help with muscle recovery if worn all the time or for long periods of time, especially to stave off inflammation and increase blood flow. My answer to you is that no matter what the evidence shows, give it a try. Sometimes mind over matter is all it takes. If they work for you personally, who is to say they don’t. A very small investment to make, if nothing else, it might be worth a try if it gives you a little emotional and mental boost.