In recent years, compression clothing has become the new buzzword in the world of sports medicine. Compression wear can take many forms including compression socks, compression stockings or compression shorts. In general, compression apparel is wearable gear specifically developed to help manage injuries such as muscle, ligament and tendon damage. Compression stockings and socks belong to a category of compression wear designed to treat blood circulation related conditions like deep vein thrombosis.
We examine below how compression stockings work to treat problems related to poor blood circulation as well as conditions related to other injuries. Compression socks provide the same benefits as stockings in relation to the management of blood circulation problems.
Improved Blood Circulation
Any discussion of how compression stockings work has to begin with the impact on blood circulation. Compression clothing acts like an express toll route in a busy city. It provides an expressway for important elements for healing to reach the injury faster and be more effective once they get there. As described in our post on the science of kinesiology taping, the speed with which blood and other lymphatic fluids can flow through the site of an injury is an important factor in speeding up healing from the injury.
Studies have shown that with consistent compression, the walls of the arteries will dilate, increasing the blood flow through them. This means more oxygen and nutrients flowing through the body. The walls of the veins will also constrict under compression, increasing the speed of blood flow through your body. Increased blood flow through veins means that deoxygenated blood and lactic acid return to the heart quicker.
The American College of Chest Physicians (ACCP) has recommended the use of compression stockings for those at risk of developing Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT). DVT is a condition characterized by the formation of blood clots within a deep vein, typically in the leg. A 2016 Cochrane study has also concluded that there is high quality evidence that the use of graduated compression stockings can reduce the incidence of symptomless DVT among long range airline passengers.
Reduced Muscle Vibration
Compression socks and stockings also help to stabilize the muscles and decrease the amount of muscular vibration. In so doing, they reduce the risk of muscle damage from overstretching or tearing during athletic training or competition. As tendons are structures that connect muscles to adjacent bones, this also reduces the risk of injury from tendon damage.
While inflammation and swelling have a hand in the healing process, they are uncomfortable. Additionally, if prolonged, they can actually inhibit recovery by preventing movement and the buildup of muscle strength. Compression stockings or socks help to reduce swelling and can give an injured athlete the ability to recover sooner.
Normal swelling is bad enough, but a buildup of excess fluid, called edema, can also slow down the healing process by inhibiting movement. Edema usually occurs around joints. Compression socks or stockings can aid in reducing this excess fluid and stopping the painful, limiting effects. This is especially the case when the patient combines their use with elevation of the injured area.
Everyone knows that nutrients are essential to a healthy body, but this is especially true when battling an injury. Compression helps stimulate the flow of lymphatic fluids that carry vital nutrients to the damaged tissues surrounding the injury. These fluids also remove waste from cells and body tissues. As mentioned earlier in connection with blood flow, this is key to how compression stockings work to facilitate the recovery process.
Oxygen, carried through the body by blood cells, is a crucial ingredient that helps injured tissue repair itself. Swelling, the body’s first reaction after an injury, restricts blood flow to the injured area and deprives it of oxygen. Compression socks and stockings open up the pathways and accelerate the delivery of oxygen to the injured area.