While running in the Los Angeles 13.1 Half Marathon a few years ago, Dr. Steven Popkow and I chatted about the benefits we both reaped with the use of compression apparel. It's interesting that this photo shows three people in a row wearing some form of this popular fitness gear. My own professional experience with the compression apparel started with the treatment of the highest level American track and field athletes in the mid-'90s. The reduction of muscle strains (spasms) experienced by these athletes, along with their faster recovery times after exercising, reinforced my confidence in these products.
One of the most significant scientific benefits of compression apparel is the reduction of excessive tissue vibration, which guarantees less tissue tearing, overload, and fatigue while increasing muscular strength and power during exercise. A 5-year Penn State study revealed an average of 12% improvement in both power and strength with compression apparel use. Research studies done by the American company Dupont in the '70s touted 8-10% less tissue vibration and fatigue with compression Lycra materials. The benefits of circulatory improvement with compression and reduced venous pooling in lower extremities dates back to the latter '70s when the medical use of compression leg stockings for heart patients with compromised lower extremity circulation was first introduced. Another valuable advantage of this gear is the ability to keep muscles warmer and less likely to get cold and cramp.
The compression socks that also cover the calves are helpful for shin splints, achilles tendinitis, and plantar fasciitis. The compression legs will also help these lower leg conditions and reduce symptoms of iliotibial band syndrome, glute, hamstring, adductor, quad and groin symptoms, including "runner's knee" and patellofemoral syndrome. There are also calf sleeves to specifically help shin splints, calf symptoms, and achilles tendinitis. I have continued to use both compression socks and legs during all of my daily runs. The compression products with graduated pressure (more in the feet and less comparatively in the knees and hips) help improve recovery and circulation much better than the compression products with equal pressure in all areas of the same garment. The variation in compression helps push the blood, lactic acid, and other by-products created during exercise from the feet and lower extremities toward the heart. I even use the long sleeve compression tops, as they help me maintain better posture while reducing strain on the shoulders, arms and upper back muscles. The arm sleeves facilitate ease of arm movement, help improve upper body circulation, and maintain warmth. My three favorite compression product companies are 2XU, CW-X, and CEP.
Now that we know there are obvious benefits to our bodies with compression products during exercise and even after to hasten recovery, the emergence of compression sleep apparel is just beginning to surface. In fact, the use of "posture apparel" is also going to continue to gain in popularity over the next few years.
Keep Moving and Especially Running!
Dr. Paul R. Copeskey, DC, CCFC
Running in Compression Apparel
The use of compression gear has been a staple in my own personal fitness apparel for the last 10 years. Neoprene knee, ankle, and elbow sleeves, along with neoprene shorts, were some the early applications of compression science in the '70s. Compression apparel complements the use of Kinesiology Tape, as it reinforces and magnifies the compression of the area taped. Although Kinesiology Tape is a more exact positioning of the compression science with a specific treatment/application to a particular muscle's origin and/or tendon insertion, the use of the two is definitely synergistic. Compression products have definitely helped me recover faster from my daily runs and especially after long runs.