Do Compression Garments Work for Muscle Recovery?

Whether you're a weekend warrior or a professional athlete, muscle recovery is always a concern. Avoiding post-exercise muscle soreness can also help you get back to your workouts and training regimes faster, but it can also keep you more comfortable.

It's no wonder there's a lot of research focused on muscle recovery and a variety of products that jumpstart the process, limiting pain and shortening the time it takes to fully repair muscles after strenuous training sessions.

Compression garments are an example of this type of product used by athletes and recreational people looking for a recovery boost.

What are compression garments?

Compression garments are garments that are worn on various parts of the body that are snug and provide compression. Most of the time they are made from a mix of spandex and nylon, although other materials are also used.

You can find compression garments in a pressure range, although a doctor will generally prescribe higher compression ranges for medical use.

When it comes to sportswear, compression garments are designed to increase performance and accelerate muscle recovery.

Types of compression clothing

Medical forms of compression garments are used to help people recover from surgery or to increase circulation for those in need. Sports compression garments, on the other hand, are designed as pieces of clothing that you can wear alone or as a garment to cover most of your body. There are also sleeves that only cover a specific part of the body.

Some of the types of sports compression garments available include:

  • Long pantyhose
  • Knee sleeves
  • Three quarter pants
  • Bermuda
  • Knee sleeves
  • Calf sleeves
  • Short and long sleeve shirts
  • Socks
  • Quadruple sleeves

Do compression garments help muscle recovery?

Before using compression garments or muscle recovery garments, it is important to know whether or not they are effective for this purpose. There are many claims to untangle, but there is promising research behind the use of compression garments to aid the muscle recovery process. It is also wise to know what causes muscle pain and what type of compression garments can help.

The cause of muscle pain

Exercise is believed to cause minor tears in your muscles due to a natural process that actually builds more muscle fibers, helping you get stronger and faster. Muscle pain can be caused by an inflammatory response resulting from these tears.

Often referred to as DOMS (late-onset muscle soreness), the severity of your post-workout muscle soreness depends on the duration and intensity of your workout.

This type of normal muscle pain is not the same as that caused by an injury such as a muscle strain or sprain. Although these types of injuries require medical attention, late-onset muscle pain can be treated at home. The peak effect of DOMS generally occurs 48 to 72 hours after training.

Any sharp pain, sprain, swelling, or persistent pain may be a sign of something else and may require medical attention. Talk to a healthcare provider about your muscle pain if something seems unusual.

What science says

There are several theories behind how compression garments can aid muscle recovery. Research has shown some clear benefits of wearing compression garments for recovery.

Evidence suggests that compression garments have the following benefits:

May reduce muscle damage: For example, a muscle damage biomarker called creatine kinase (CK) has been shown to decrease after exercise when wearing compression garments.4 When CK levels are reduced, recovery time improves due to increased elimination of residual metabolites and repair of muscle tissue.

Reduce pain and inflammation: When it comes to the inflammatory response, compression garments can reduce pain and inflammation after training.

Decrease pain and fatigue: Results from two meta-analyzes showed that wearing compression garments reduces post-workout leg pain, muscle fatigue, and muscle damage caused by exercise. Researchers believe that these effects are due to increased blood and lymphatic flow.

Beneficial for a variety of athletes: A 2017 meta-analysis published in Sports Medicine was conducted to see if compression garments are effective for recovery in a variety of training modalities, including strength, power, and endurance performance after an initial training session. no-load running and endurance exercise.

Researchers found that resistance training had the greatest recovery benefits when wearing compression garments, followed by cycling, allowing for improved performance the next day.

Promote Recovery When Wearing Post-workout: In terms of time, most evidence shows that wearing compression garments for muscle recovery performs best in the post-exercise period. Conflicting research does not fully support its use during training.

Other Benefits of Compression Garments

May Improve Performance - Many athletes wear compression garments to enhance their performance. However, the evidence behind this practice is scant. Most studies do not reveal any performance advantage with the use of compression garments.

Improve Upper Body Strength Recovery Times - A 2014 study revealed that wearing compression garments can help regain muscle strength after resistance training. In particular, this effect was observed in the upper body. Recovery time was 3 to 8 hours after exercise.

May reduce muscle vibration and increase muscle control during specific activities - Compression clothing can help athletes in sports such as downhill skiing due to its ability to reduce muscle vibrations and increase control. More research is needed to say for sure if there is a clear advantage.

Tips for choosing compression clothing

Here are some tips for choosing the right compression garments for you.

  • Any Level of Compression Works: Research shows there isn't much of a difference in muscle recovery when it comes to the actual level of compression, so choose the level of compression that suits you best.
  • Sports Specific: If you're primarily running and biking or other cardio resistance exercise, it makes sense to wear a lower body compression suit.
  • Specific Pain Points: If you frequently experience muscle pain in a specific part of your body, such as your calves, choosing a sleeve for that area is a smart choice.
  • Support vs. Flexibility: Some compression garments provide more support with more substantial compression, while others are more flexible. You may want to consider the type of exercise you are doing before deciding if you plan to wear clothes during exercise. Weight lifting and yoga may require more flexibility than running or other sports.
  • Other Benefits: You may want to look for compression garments that offer the added benefits you may need, such as moisture wicking, breathability, or pockets.

Other Ways to Aid Muscle Recovery

There are many other ways to help your body recover from exercise. You can try various methods. Here are a few:

  • Active recovery work uses low intensity post-workout activities to maintain blood flow to the tissues you need, bringing nutrients and blood to the areas to reduce inflammation and speed healing.
  • Ice bath therapy, also known as cryotherapy, uses ice to help cool inflamed muscles.
  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as aspirin, ibuprofen, and naproxen, work to reduce inflammation and pain. Always speak with a healthcare professional before taking over-the-counter medications, including NSAIDs.
  • Therapeutic sports massage can increase blood flow to the muscles to reduce inflammation and stiffness.

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