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Compression sleeves efficiency : what YOU should know!

Reminder: How do compression sleeves work?
It’s important to have a basic understanding of how blood flows through the body. Compression socks and sleeves help to fight the effects of gravity and assist the body in venous return (deoxygenated blood flowing back up to the heart). Keeping oxygenated blood flowing to muscles is important for performance: the more oxygen the cells have, the better they will function.



1. The overall efficiency of compression sleeves has already been demonstrated, but is still subject to questioning

Evidence for the efficiency of compression garments has already been demonstrated especially with recent conclusions of international scientific reports supporting the use of compression to alleviate symptoms associated with fatigue, improve performance and prevent injuries. [1, 2]

However in some cases it isn’t that simple to support their use, and gaps in knowledge are still evident. [3, 4] The heterogeneity of results observed in scientific studies could be explained by huge disparity in terms of compression garments used. [1, 2] For sure garments from different brands are different (in terms of pressure, fiber, knitting…) and their efficiency could not be the same.



2. What Compressport® can tell you about compression sleeves efficiency?

To understand the disparity of results observed in literature, a study decided to compare different compression garments’ efficiency (from different brands). [5] A total of 15 of the main commercially available calf compression sleeves were tested. The study focused on calf muscle oxygen saturation (StO2), which is a good marker of compression performances (higher calf StO2 indicates better compression performances).The experience was randomly conducted on 8 voluntaries at rest: StO2 was measured in seated position wearing compression sleeves (during 3 min each) and without any compression.



3. And the results speak for themselves: 225 % of difference between the better and the worst calf sleeves.


Figure : Calf StO2 recorded with or without calf compression sleeves.

–        * Significantly different from all other calf sleeves including no compression.
–        ** Significantly different from A to M and no compression.
–        *** Significantly different from A to F and no compression.
–        **** Significantly different from A to E and no compression.
–        ***** Significantly different from A and no compression.
–        ****** Significantly different from no compression.


StO2 recorded with or without compression sleeves is presented in the figure above (each letter indicates a compression brand). N and O correspond to Compressport R2 Swiss and R2. 

In conclusion, all compression calf sleeves increased the calf StO2 (compared to no compression). But noteworthy differences were noted between different sleeves: from +6.9% for the less effective to +22.6 % for the most effective. More than 225% difference between the Compressport R2 and the less effective calf sleeves! 

With these results we now really understand that all compression sleeves are not equally effective: there are often positive effects of compression but sometimes insignificant results. Thus, how can we explain this results’ disparity? 



4. What determines the differences in results between various calf sleeves in 4 points.

To justify the differences observed between compression calf sleeves efficiency we underlined 4 points : the pressure level, fibers, breath-ability and knitting. [5]

  • Low pressure level is not effective. On the contrary, a too high pressure level will produce a tourniquet effect (bad feeling, sensation of heavy legs…). A compression level around 20-25 mmHgis, in agreement with all the studies, the good ratio between benefits and comfort.
  • The fabric must be elastic and stretchable. The aim is to adapt perfectly the calf sleeves to the shape of the calf taking into account the variation of calf volume during the effort, in order to prevent any discomfort due to a compression that becomes too strong (the calf swells when: climbing, on the tip of your toes…).
  • The fabric must be thin for more breathability and comfort.
  • Finally, the seamless compression guarantees the quality, efficacy and consistency! Indeed, the seamless knitting could be in favor of long lasting effects on StO2: no fraying and stitch defects making loose fit the sleeves and negatively affecting compression and elastic properties.

References :

[1] D.-P. Born, B. Sperlich, and H.-C. Holmberg, “Bringing light into the dark: effects of compression clothing on performance and recovery,” International Journal of Sports Physiology and Performance, vol. 8, no. 1, pp. 4–18, 2013.

[2] J. Hill, G. Howatson, K. van Someren, J. Leeder, and C. Pedlar, “Compression garments and recovery from exercise-induced muscle damage: a meta-analysis,” British Journal of Sports Medicine, vol. 48, pp. 1340–1346, 2014.

[3] D.N. French, K. G.Thompson, S.W. Garland et al., “The effects of contrast bathing and compression therapy on muscular performance,” Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, vol. 40, no. 7, pp. 1297–1306, 2008.

[4] J. C. Carling, K. Francis, and C. Lorish, “The effects of continuous external compression on delayed-onset muscle soreness (DOMS),” International Journal of Rehabilitation and Health, vol. 1, no. 4, pp. 223–235, 1995.

[5] T. Dermont, L. Morizot, M. Bouhaddi, A. Ménétrier, “Changes in Tissue Oxygen Saturation in Response to Different Calf Compression Sleeves, ”Journal of Sports Medicine, in press.

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