Why Compression?

by Aviva Browning, Assistant Running & Fitness Coordinator

In the store, we frequently suggest compression socks and sleeves for customers with soft tissue injuries. And just as frequently, we are met with the same question: “why compression?”

The short answer is, compression is intended to increase blood flow, and thus increase the rate of recovery.  

But how does that actually work? 

To understand the technology behind compression garments, we must first have a solid understanding of how blood circulates in the body. The heart pumps oxygen containing blood to our extremities and muscles through the arteries. The cells use the oxygen and other nutrients from the blood, and send the now deoxygenated blood through the veins back to the heart. This cycle continues once the blood returns to the heart and is oxygenated from the lungs once again. 

Blood Circulation

The more oxygen our cells have, the better they will perform. When we exercise, our body produces lactic acid as a waste product. If the lactic acid is not removed properly from the muscles, carried away with the deoxygenated blood, it can cause soreness and fatigue. 

Similarly, the more oxygen our cells have, the faster they will heal injuries to any particular area. Increased blood flow allows the body to carry growth factors and nutrients to the injury more quickly, thus reducing inflammation and promoting tissue growth. 

Compression socks and sleeves provide graduated compression, meaning the compression is higher (tighter) at the foot and ankle and lower (looser) as it moves up the calf and lower leg. This type of compression helps to fight the effects of gravity and assist the body in venous return (deoxygenated blood flowing back up to the heart).

When compressed, the walls of the arteries will dilate, increasing the blood flow through them. Simultaneously, the walls of the veins will constrict under compression, increasing the velocity of blood flow through them. Increased velocity of blood flow through veins means that deoxygenated blood and lactic acid will return to the heart more quickly. 

Veins/Arteries in compression

So what does this all mean? It means compression is great for both injuries and muscle recovery! Come on in to SHOES-n-FEET and try out some of our compression socks and sleeves. 

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