There has been an increased interest for compression wear on the market in the past few years, thanks to top athletes, national teams and TV athletes more often seen using it. As with any trending product, there are always questions and rumors going around. Physiotherapist and Head of Development at Rehband, Johan Bolin, was a recent guest of Maratonpodden (The Marathon Pod) in Sweden, to answer host Petra Månström’s questions about compression wear. These are some of the myths that they discussed:
1. Isn’t compression mainly designed for people who are injured or inactive? Why is compression wear becoming a thing in sports?
In the medical world, we’ve been using compression wear and socks for many years for people with insufficient blood circulation, often due to sedentary, to prevent blood clots.
Even in sports, compression wear helps with better blood circulation, as well as with increased receptive input; that is, we sense different body parts more when compression is applied; more information is sent to the brain, helping us perform each movement better. It’s a mechanic reflect. You feel your knee better if you put your hand around it, for example. The increased blood circulation also helps prevent post-workout soreness.
2. I am already performing well and have no injuries. I don’t need compression wear to perform.
Compression wear benefits all aspects of a workout. It can be used before a workout, to increase the blood flow and speed up the warm up. During a workout, to ensure more controlled movement, less vibration of the muscles and to increase endurance. And also after a workout, where the pressure increases the blood flow and helps the body get rid of waste products quicker. These effects can benefit any athlete or active person, regardless of level.
3. I’ve heard that the term compression wear is not protected – so how can I trust the products I see in stores?
“Compression wear” in itself is not a protected name, there are brands marketing tight undergarments as compression and selling it in stores. A piece of advice is to talk with people who are already using it and ask them for recommendations on serious brands.
Real compression wear is anatomically shaped elastic clothing with a slim fit that applies pressure to the body. The limit for real compression wear is at 18mm quick silver pressure against the body. If you’ve tried real compression you’ll know what it is. It’s important to find the right compression and size that fits you, and to remember that it is a bit unusual feeling at first, which takes some getting used to.
4. I’ve heard there is no research to support the benefits of compression wear.
There are several studies supporting the individual effects of compression wear. However, there are 6-7 different main benefits of using compression wear when working out, and to this date, there is still no research that supports all of the benefits at the same time. This is due to the fact that compression is still fairly new within sports. The use of compression wear within sports has grown thanks to the users and not to research. Even though more research is bound to be presented soon as more and more people start using compression in sports.
5. Aren’t the positive effects people are claiming with compression wear just due to placebo?
The sense of gaining more strength and stability because of the applied pressure is due to the fact that compression wear really does give you better body control. The muscles are better held together; they don’t vibrate when you run, meaning that you are using less energy. You can focus more on what you are doing without wasting energy on keeping your body together, which means that you have the energy to for example run longer.
6. I can understand the point of using compression tights on your whole legs, but do I really benefit from using compression shorts when out running?
Even with shorts, the pressure you are applying to your thighs, hips and pelvis provide better control of your body, which is central when running.
7. Will some of my muscles get weaker because I’m not activating them when using compression wear?
With compression wear you are supporting your muscles, not deactivating them. The support will help you perform better and achieve more precise movements. When you are running for example, there is no point in taking flabby steps or becoming tired.
8. I’ve heard that it’s dangerous to use compression wear too much.
It’s not dangerous to use compression wear all the time, but in everyday situations you don’t really need increased stability and control of your movements. It’s more beneficial when working out, especially if you are trying to reach a certain goal.
Using compression wear is just a way of helping the body to mobilize its muscles. As a physiotherapist, I oppose from people that say that it would be dangerous to use the extra support. You are not replacing any bodily function, you are just giving body parts more focus and input to be able to move in a more controlled manner.