March 8, 2017

Ultimate Compression Garments Guide

compression gear

Welcome to the exciting world of compression gear. Every year, sports garment manufacturers come up with new technologies and designs. These are usually chosen to enhance performance, support the muscles and reduce muscle fatigue in the end of a tough workout.

Compression garments can accomplish all three of those goals. Such clothes are already manufactured by multiple companies. Compression gear is available both for athletes and people interested in therapeutic outfits. If you’re about to buy compression garments for the very first time, the following guide will come in handy. It will outline all of the essentials you need to understand about these clothes and provide a couple of purchasing tips.

What are Compression Garments?

Compression garments are specialized clothes that provide support to some of the biggest muscles of the body. Usually, such clothes are made of spandex, nylon and lycra. They’re stretchy and they compress the tissues.

Compression clothes are available in several varieties. Some of them offer solely mild compression. Such compression garments are suitable for the needs of athletes and active individuals. They reduce muscle fatigue and soreness after workouts.

Therapeutic compression garments will usually be recommended by physicians. They offer a higher level of compression. These compression garments can be used to treat a wide array of conditions and they’re also an excellent form of prevention.

Benefits of Wearing Compression Garments

Whether you have a medical problem, you’re prone to experiencing an issue or you want to make your workouts more productive, wearing compression garments comes with an array of benefits. Here are some of the most important advantages you’ll get to enjoy.

Muscle Support

The primary purpose of compression sports clothing is to provide muscle support. When the fabric presses against the muscles, it reduces vibrations and impact during physical activity.

This reduction in muscular oscillations will contribute to less fatigue and post-workout soreness. There are clinical studies confirming the effectiveness of compression sports garments for reducing aches and stiffness after tough workouts.

Performance

While evidence is a bit conflicting on this one, studies suggest that wearing compression gear can enhance athletic performance.

One study found out that in a group of runners, compression garments reduced VO2max by approximately 26 percent. VO2max is an athletic term that refers to oxygen uptake after the body has reached its lactate threshold.

There was one more study, this time involving a bigger group of runners. The ones that used compression garments saw an improvement in both their aerobic and anaerobic thresholds.

While more research will be required to confirm the performance-enhancing qualities of such garments, working out in such clothes is definitely going to be beneficial. Even if you don’t see major improvements, the reduced muscle fatigue is a reason enough to give such clothes a try.

Injury Prevention

The reduced muscular vibrations during high impact activities bring down the risks of injuries and strains. Since the compression garments are providing support, they’re making it less likely for common athletic trauma to occur.

In addition, compression garments reduce the typical micro tears that occur in the muscles as a normal consequence of working out. The body becomes trim and strong without pain, discomfort or more serious injuries.

Reduced Risk of Deep Vein Thrombosis

Deep vein thrombosis (DVT) is a potentially life-threatening condition. Clots can form in the veins of the legs and eventually get dislodged. Depending on where the clots travel to, they can be deadly.

People who are at a higher risk of developing DVT are the ones that stand on their legs for a long period of time, individuals that have undergone surgery, the ones having a sedentary lifestyle and people who are frequent air travelers.

Compression garments like pants, socks and stockings can be used to reduce the risk of DVT. There are special kinds of therapeutic clothes that feature a higher level of compression than the items created for the needs of athletes. If you’re interested in such garments, it would be best to have a discussion with your doctor prior to making a purchase.

Treatment for Varicose Veins

Depending on the degree of compression, such garments can be used to treat mild to severe varicose veins.

Varicose veins usually appear in the legs. They’re a result of vein valve malfunctions. As a result, the body find it difficult to pump blood up the vein and back to the heart. The veins become enlarged and inflamed – a condition known as varicose veins.

Compression socks and stockings for therapeutic purposes help the veins get the blood up and reduce its pooling in the legs. The compression level should correspond to the severity of the problem. Socks and stockings featuring extra-firm compression can be used for the non-surgical treatment of severe varicose veins. Such stockings are also a good option for post-surgical recovery after the removal of varicose veins or sclerotherapy.

Types of Compression Garments

Compression garments come in all shapes and sizes. There are items designed especially for upper body and lower body compression. Here are some of the most common varieties and the benefits that they bring:

  • Compression socks: compression socks are popular among both athletes and people in need of a therapeutic garment. They come with different degrees of compression, depending on the intended use. Compression socks for athletes support the ankle, the arch and the leg itself. The compression socks used for therapeutic purposes are created for the needs of people who spend a lot of time standing up. Such socks can be used to reduce leg pain, swelling, the risk of DVT and varicose veins.
  • Compression pants: such garments are mainly created for the needs of athletes. Compression pants cover the entire lower body – from the waist to the ankle. They can be worn individually or in a combination with compression socks. The compression pants provide a lot of support to some of the biggest muscles in the legs. These include the glutes, quads and the flexors.
  • Compression sleeves: compression sleeves are incredibly versatile. These products are typically unisex. Compression sleeves can be used on the arm, elbow, calf or leg. Unlike socks or pants, these have two open ends. Some people prefer using compression sleeves because they offer targeted, localized support to just one part of the body. A compression sleeve can be worn on a problem area or a susceptible part of the body (for example, an arm that has been injured in the past).
  • Compression shorts: these offer enough support to the buttocks and the thighs. Compression shorts are usually quite lightweight and comfortable. They can be worn on their own or as an undergarment in colder weather. Just like all of the other compression garments, these reduce muscle vibrations and are particularly beneficial for runners and bikers.

How to Buy Compression Clothes?

The good news is that you have many options. The bad news is that you have many options. With so many manufacturers and brands to choose among, it may be difficult to pick the compression garments that are just right for your needs.

It’s very important to talk to a physician prior to buying if you need compression garments for therapeutic purposes. People who suffer from varicose veins, edema and the ones at risk of DVT should never buy compression garments on their own. A physician will figure out whether such clothes will deliver benefits and what level of compression is going to be the best one.

Once you get the medical consultation out of the way, it will be time to choose. Here’s how to sort through the possibilities and identify the best ones.

Compression Level

The first and the most important factor is the level of compression. Keep in mind that regardless of the garment you choose, it will typically feature graduated compression. This means that the compression is strongest at the point that’s the furthest away from the heart. If you’re buying socks, for example, the compression will be highest at the ankle and it will decrease as the fabric goes up the leg.

Thus, when choosing such items, the compression rating will come in the form of two numbers. These two numbers are indicative of the high and the low compression levels – graduated compression.

The mildest compression comes in the eight to 15 mmHg range. These are typical clothes for exercisers. The compression is sufficient to reduce muscle vibrations and fatigue. It’s not going to produce major therapeutic benefits. Such compression garments can reduce muscle tiredness, relieve minor swelling and prevent the formation of varicose veins.

A 15 to 20 mmHg compression range is also considered mild. Such garments can offer relief from mild to moderate varicose veins. In addition, they’ll be suitable for reducing minor swelling, reducing the risk of varicose veins during pregnancy and preventing deep vein thrombosis.

The next compression level is the 20 to 30 mmHg range. Such garments can be used both by athletes and individuals interested in therapeutic clothing. The firm compression enhances performance, reduces the risk of muscle soreness and improves circulation. In addition, these garments can be used for the treatment of moderate to severe varicose veins. They can also help post-surgical recovery, reduce swelling, help for the management of post thrombotic syndrome and reduce the risk of deep vein thrombosis.

The highest compression level is in the 30 to 40 mmHg range. Do not wear such compression garments unless they’re recommended by a physician. Such clothes are used solely for therapeutic purposes and they’re not suitable for active athletes. This firmest level of compression will offer relief from severe varicose veins, reduce severe edema, help post-surgical recovery, reduce the symptoms of orthostatic hypotension and minimize the risk of developing deep vein thrombosis.

Thus, if you’re a healthy person or an active athlete, the 15 to 20 mmHg or 20 to 30 mmHg compression garments will be best-suited to your needs. It’s definitely a good idea to put such garments on before buying them. Many people are surprised by the level of compression and the snug fit that such garments provide.

Sizing

To experience the benefits of compression garments, you’ll have to choose the right size. All manufacturers provide sizing charts you can use for the purpose of picking the right items. Make sure that the company you’re interested in caters to the needs of people having your size.

Depending on the type of compression garment you’re about to buy, you’ll have to take several measurements and use those to choose the right size.

If you’re buying socks, for example, you’ll need to measure your ankle at its thinnest point and your calf at its widest point. The length from the floor to the top of your calf will also have to be measured. Usually, manufacturers will provide information about the required measurements in the sizing chart.

Most companies have both extra-small and extra-large items and they have items suitable for the needs of all kinds of buyers. Still, it’s very important to double check prior to making a purchase. Keep in mind there could be differences between the same size offered by two manufacturers. Always explore the size chart prior to placing your order.

Fabrics

The fabrics that compression garments are made of will determine their durability, the level of compression and the level of comfort.

Most companies are experimenting with different types of fabrics. They’ll give the final outcome a specific name but usually, several common products are used. The most common possibilities include spandex, polyester, cotton, nylon and lycra.

A blend of polyester and spandex is typical. It’s a thicker fabric that will remain in a good condition for many years. Always take a look at the percentage ratios of the two. The higher the level of spandex, the higher the compression level is going to be.

Many people opt for compression garments that contain cotton because it’s a natural and breathable fabric. When it comes to athletic items, however, cotton isn’t the best pick. Sportswear is subjected to a lot of wear and tear. Cotton isn’t the strongest possibility out there. Many other favrics are still breathable but they will remain unchanged, regardless of physical activity intensity and number of washing cycles.

If you are choosing compression garments that will be used during the winter, look for a fabric that has insulating qualities. Merino wool is one example. This type of wool is very soft and comfortable. At the same time, it provides sufficient insulation to enable outdoor workout sessions during the winter.

Finally, make sure that the compression garments come with extra padding on sensitive spots. Such sensitive spots include the heel of the foot (for runners). Having more fabric there will reduce the impact of the physical activity and minimize the risk of pain or blister development.

Additional Features

Compression garments created for the needs of athletes often feature a range of innovations that make the item more functional and more comfortable.

If you’re an avid athlete, a moisture wicking item is a must. The moisture wicking technology keeps skin dry during intense physical activity. Usually, the fabric will allow the moisture and bring it to the top level of the garment. There, the sweat will evaporate and deliver a more comfortable workout.

Related to the previous entry, you may want to look for an item that has anti-odor technology. The technology usually refers to anti-bacterial fibers or threads weaved into the fabric. These reduce the risk of odor-causing bacteria formation.

Look for an item that dries quickly after being washed. This is an imperative if you work out several times per week and you don’t have a big number of compression garments to switch between.

Finally, if you do a lot of outdoor exercising, you may want to get a fabric that blocks UV rays. Such fabrics protect the skin and reduce the risk of experiencing skin cancer/other conditions caused by the unprotected exposure to ultraviolet light.

Quality of the Construction

There will be major differences in construction. It’s usually pretty easy to tell which items have the highest quality.

Flatlock seams are one example of thoughtful design. Such seams make the item even more comfortable to wear and they reduce the risk of chaffing during exercise.

A wider waistband is a must for pants, shorts and tights. It’s even better if you can find an item that comes with an adjustable waistband that you can roll up or down. Make sure that the top band keeps the compression garment in place without being too tight or cutting off circulation.

Another thoughtful construction option is the inclusion of a small interior or exterior pocket. Such a pocket is perfect for active individuals because it can be used to bring keys and a bit of cash to the workout. An interior pocket is typically best in terms of comfort and safety.

Brand Reputation and History

Let’s face it – certain brands have a much better reputation than other manufacturers. The history of the company making compression garments will also have to be examined prior to making a purchase.

It’s always a good idea to choose a brand that specializes in the field of compression and athletic gear. Such companies know what it takes to enhance performance and they typically invest in researching new technologies.

Look for online reviews, information and the experiences of other buyers. Testimonials can provide tons of authentic information about both positive and negative experiences that people have had with a certain brand.

Finally, it will be enlightening to look at a company’s history and its philosophy. A brand that has years of experience is usually better, though many startups are ambitious enough to establish their market position. The more information you can find about the company, the easier it will become to choose.

A Few Additional Tips and Suggestions

Remember that compression garments are different from other types of sportswear. Putting such a piece of clothing on for the first time may feel like a challenge. This is why choosing the right size and the right level of compression will both be very important.

It’s also very important to be realistic when buying compression garments. Compression tights, for example, aren’t going to turn you into Usain Bolt. You may experience some improvements in terms of athletic performance. The primary purpose of compression gear, however is different.

A final thing to remember when making a purchase is that compression garments have become quite popular. This is the main reason why numerous companies have entered the market. Some of these products, however, come with subpar quality.

Reputable manufacturers always list the compression level of their product (in a numerical range that’s measured in mmHg). If you can’t find information about the level of compression, you’re not getting a therapeutic-quality item.

Give the manufacturer a call if you still have some questions that need to be answered. Well-established companies have customer service teams that will be capable of addressing all of your concerns.

Remember that opting for a cheap item may prove to be more expensive in the long run than spending some money on quality compression gear. Always assess the price to quality ratio instead of trying to identify the biggest bargain.

A Few Final Words about Compression Garments

Compression garments can help you accomplish a lot, whether you’re dealing with a medical issue or you want to speed up post-workout recovery. Chances are that at least a few companies make the type of compression garment that you’re interested in. think carefully, know what your purpose is and buy a compression garment keeping this information in mind.

It’s always a good idea to shop around and compare possibilities side by side. Take your time and don’t spend your money impulsively. Check manufacturer claims and make sure there’s evidence supporting the marketing hype. Evidence in the form of clinical studies or customer testimonials is usually the most believable.

Don’t hesitate to give such items a try because they can help you accomplish a lot. If you’re buying for the very first time, you may want to identify companies that provide warranties or a money-back guarantee. These will enable a risk-free trial that will help you determine if the specific compression garment is the right one for your needs.

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