Recent studies show that with an optimal level of consistent compression, the walls of the arteries will dilate, increasing the blood flow through them. Arterial blood flow has been shown to increase up to 40% during activity and 30% during recovery. This means more oxygen and nutrients flowing through the body! On the other hand, the walls of the veins will constrict under compression, which helps to increase the velocity of blood flow through them. Increased velocity of blood flow through veins means that deoxygenated blood and lactic acid will get back to the heart quicker, which will help to increase the rate of recovery and decrease muscle soreness! Compression will also help to stabilize the muscle and decrease the amount of muscular vibration, resulting in decreased fatigue. To sum up the benefits of compression; enhanced performance through increased blood flow, quicker recovery and decreased muscle soreness, and less fatigue. All good things!
So are compression socks or sleeves good for shin splints, calf cramps / strains, and Achilles tendonitis?The answer is yes, however, they will not cure any condition if the only thing you are doing to help your injury is wear compression. All injuries should be assessed so that the real cause can be addressed. Wearing compression can help to make your injury feel better as you are recovering, help get you through that last long run before your marathon, or possibly prevent a new injury from coming on. Proper rest, massage, stretching / strengthening, footwear, and progression of training should all be considered when dealing with a lower leg injury.
What if you’re not injured, can you still benefit from compression? Absolutely! Increased blood flow is going to help improve your performance and decrease the rate of fatigue of your muscles. It will also help you to recover quicker, meaning that you will be ready for your next workout, so you can train harder.