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Recovery (part 4): Compression Garments

Although a relatively recent addition in Australia, Compression Garments (CG) have rapidly become quite the fashion statement, initially designed to promote recovery from hard training and competition and subsequently to help improve performance.

Compression Garments are a type of tight-fitting form of clothing made from elastic material providing a gentle compression of the limbs. Some of the reported positive outcomes include:

  • Help Thermoregulatory control (maintaining correct body temperature)
  • Provides greater joint-position awareness
  • Enhanced local blood blow
  • Enhanced removal of post-exercise waste products
  • Enhanced muscle oxygenation
  • Reduced muscle oscillations
  • Reduced swelling
  • Reduced creatine kinase concentrations 
  • Reduced perception of post-exercise muscle soreness and fatigue

There is also the possible placebo effect and psychological aid of wearing CG and perceived recovery and performance improvements to be factored in, as anecdotally athletes often speak positively of their helpful effects. The magnitude of physiological recovery improvements observed in the literature are similar to what has been seen with cold-water therapies or light exercise.

While the research currently has shown some recovery benefits from wearing CG it should also be noted that a great deal of the research is of poor quality and clouded with inconsistencies.

It should be added that there is also the risk of bias due to sponsorshipship and potential financial gain.

While there have been some benefits shown and no observed adverse effects on performance or recovery with their use, there is still also no reliable criteria for best practice.  

It is therefore suggested that if CG are used they should be used as an adjunct to more proven and reliable recovery enhancing modalities such as enough quality food, good sleep hygiene, as well as fatigue and stress management strategies. Currently, the research is not strong enough to provide conclusive recommendations.