You may have heard about compression socks, but what about compression sleeves? Stick with us, and you’ll find out what they are, what they do, and if they can prevent and treat leg injuries.
What Do Compression Sleeves Do?
Let’s start simple.
Blood is pumped around your body to your muscles, your cells take the nutrients and oxygen, and the depleted blood is pumped back to your heart to start the cycle again. The more oxygenated and nutrient-rich blood that your heart can supply to your muscles, the better your muscles will perform.
There is only one problem when it comes to your legs, and that is down to gravity.
The blood can get there fine, but it takes some effort for the blood to be pumped back up to your heart. That is where compression sleeves come in. When your muscles are compressed, the walls of your arteries dilate, which increases circulation in your muscles, and blood can flow more freely to and from your muscles.
Not only that, but compression sleeves can also limit muscle fatigue by cutting down on muscle vibrations when you are exercising. This extra support means improved athletic ability.
Why Would you Need a Compression Sleeve?
Compression sleeves are beneficial to most wearers, and they bring many benefits, but how do you know that you need to wear them?
If you find that your legs, especially your calves, are sore or swollen at the end of the day, then a compression sleeve can help with that. The same goes for after workouts. If you work out and feel aches or pains in your legs, you should have worn a compression sleeve. In fact, if you do anything and feel the need to recover after, then a compression sleeve is what you are missing.
Even if you are not feeling any pain after a workout, but feel that you need some extra support, then a compression sleeve is something to look into. You can also get more out of your training while wearing a pair of sleeves, and you’ll be able to push yourself harder than before without the increased risk of injury.
When you know that you have to be seated for a long time with restricted space for movement, you can also consider them, like on a long-haul flight. Wearing compression sleeves will bring added comfort, and you can enjoy the journey.
The final reason to get a compression sleeve is if you already wear compression socks but need something quicker and easier to put on.
Compression Sleeves vs. Compression Socks
So, what is the difference between a compression sock and a compression sleeve?
Well, the main (and obvious) distinction is that a compression sock fits over your foot and usually up over your calf. In contrast, a compression sleeve runs from your ankle upwards. While both cover and compress the calf, a compression sleeve runs higher up the leg and can often encompass the thigh too.
Both compress muscles in your leg, mainly the calf, and there are advantages to both, mostly when it comes to fit and comfort.
Compression socks can fit snug when wearing shoes, while compression sleeves are excellent for activities that require you to be barefoot. Compression socks can be more comfortable, as there is only one opening constricting your leg, one at the top, whereas a compression sock has an opening at each end.
Compression sleeves are more beneficial for intense activities.
Types of Compression Sleeves
These sleeves come with anti-odor technology that will keep you smelling fresh. This is beneficial if you are doubling up with regular socks, too, as the sweat is going to build up.
If you have problems with certain leg areas, like calf strain or shin splints, you can invest in compression sleeves targeting those areas. The effect is similar to that of kinesiology tape.
Regular compression level for socks and sleeves is 20-30 mmHg, but you might find that you get more benefit from higher compression levels, and this is where these sleeves come in.
If you are just starting out, always begin with regular compression, and work up to higher compression levels when you need to.
Most compression sleeves are graduated, with more compression at the bottom and less at the top. Full-Range compression sleeves offer a boost for runners or when doing other intense leg workouts.
For long-distance running, you need comfortable and functional sleeves. Thankfully, there is such a thing, and these sleeves increase blood flow, advance muscle recovery, and improve your speed.
These types of sleeves have extra support, more flexibility, and are stretchier than regular compression sleeves. You get a snug and supportive sleeve that helps to eliminate leg stiffness, pain, and fatigue.
Just as the name suggests, these sleeves are designed to improve your performance, mainly during endurance exercise, by helping to prevent leg swelling.
Suppose you have worn compression socks or sleeves and have found them uncomfortable or irritating. In that case, investing in soft-fabric socks or sleeves will help you work out for longer.
Benefits of Wearing Compression Sleeves
We wouldn’t be recommending compression sleeves unless there were some benefits. Here are some reasons to wear a compression sleeve:
- Improved Performance: Compression sleeves help keep the blood flowing, which is excellent for your muscles. This increased circulation is going to help you run farther, faster, and more comfortably.
- Protection: When you wear compression sleeves, you don’t have to worry about mud splashes, abrasions, and scratches. Never worry about poison ivy again.
- Support: By supporting your muscles, especially your calf muscle, you don’t have to worry about cramps, sprains, and strains. Compression sleeves protect almost anyone from injury.
- Reduced Swelling: If you spend all day on your feet or like to go for long runs, you might notice leg swelling. Compression sleeves have been proven to limit swelling.
- Warmth: Want to go out for a run on those cold Winter days while still wearing shorts? Compression sleeves will add some warmth.
Calf Cramps, Swollen Legs, and Shin Splints
Calf strains, pain, or cramp can be debilitating and will stop short your exercise session. Compression sleeves won’t cure your problem after the fact. Still, they can alleviate pain and prevent it if you wear them while exercising.
Compression socks offer protection, reduce swelling, and increase your blood circulation, which will all contribute towards limiting calf cramps. All that provides protection from swollen legs too.
But, what about shin splints?
Shin splints are caused by inflammation of muscles, tendons, and bone tissue. A healthy diet, moderate exercise, and proper stretching before and after activity are best for preventing shin splints, and compression sleeves can help too.
Boosted circulation will address shin splint issues and help prevent the inflammation that causes the pain.
A Guide to Wearing Compression Sleeves
When should you wear compression sleeves?
Compression sleeves are best worn during exercise and activity to get the most benefit from them, but they can be worn after for recovery too. Consider them during extended travel to protect against DVT.
How long should I wear them?
They can be worn all day, but we recommend changing them every 4-6 hours to maintain the elasticity. Wear them for too long, and they will not bring any benefit due to the material sagging. We also recommend not wearing them at night, when your legs are horizontal.
How do I take care of compression sleeves?
You should wash compression sleeves after wearing them, just like you would wash socks. Defer to the label for correct washing instructions, or use a delicate setting if you cannot find any.
Should You Wear Leg Compression Sleeves if You’re Injured?
Compression sleeves can definitely aid with recovery, but what if you are injured?
Compression sleeves speed up the elimination of waste products in your muscles, reducing the pain you feel from any injuries. They also reduce recovery time and lessen fatigue.
When you wear a sleeve, you are helping to protect your leg from further injury and impacts. The increased blood flow will also help treat any injuries to your muscles, as long as the muscle itself is not torn. And while it may provide stability and security for other leg injuries, it is not a magic fix that will treat any breaks, pains, or strains.
Essentially, compression sleeves will help to limit swelling, improve your circulation, and provide stability. All of those will help to speed up the recovery time of many leg injuries.