Graduated compression features the greatest amount of compression in the part of the garment farthest away from the heart and the least amount compression in the part closest to the heart (for socks, this would be the greatest amount in the ankle and the least in the calf). The graduated compression decreases the cross sectional area of the veins and a pressure gradient is created, which leads to improved venous return and many other physiological benefits.
The many benefits of compression include:
Enhanced blood circulation as a result of improved venous return.
The deoxygenated blood goes back to the heart faster, which in turn helps to improve blood flow of oxygen rich blood back to the body.
Faster recovery following strenuous exercise and improved performance by aiding in the removal of blood lactate.
Reducing blood lactate concentration during maximal exercise bouts, allows for an increased lactic threshold. Studies have shown that athletes with a high lactate threshold perform better.
Enhanced warm-up via increases in skin temperature.
Reduced muscle oscillation/vibration upon ground contact, providing stability to the muscle help prevent microtrauma to the muscles, making for a faster and easier recovery.
Reduced effects of delayed onset muscle soreness in the days following strenuous exercise through alleviating swelling and inflammation.
Increased muscle support, which increases performance through improved muscle efficiency.
Improved leg power and vertical jump through enhanced proprioception.
What mmHg is optimal for compression garments?
It is advised by the medical community that any compression socks or garments with compression levels greater than 20 mmHg should only be worn with the advice of a physician or with a prescription.
- Too much compression may act as a tourniquet.
- Higher levels of compression may require a prescription and may not be available over-the-counter.
- Athletes, who have good circulation as a result of their body adapting to the high levels of stress during training, do not need the higher levels of compression that were designed for those with venous issues.
When should compression be worn?
Compression garments may be worn during activity for performance enhancement and post-activity for recovery. Benefits may be gained pre-activity if there are long periods of standing, immobility, or strain.
Who should wear compression?
Studies have shown that those that have gained most by wearing compression are those transitioning from an inactive to active lifestyle. Older populations have experienced great benefits from use of compression socks and sleeves. Amateur athletes may see physiological improvements through using compression.
The result? More power for more performance and faster recovery for faster times.