Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Using Compression for Recovery and Generally Feeling Better

By: Joel Luedke

Compression socks can be seen everywhere these days.  If you watch the Crossfit games they are worn by most of the competitors in all kinds of colors.  Runners have sworn by them for years.  The verdict is still out on how much they can truly help with increasing performance during activity. A recent research study by undergraduate athletic training students at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse found there to be no significant difference in blood lactate levels in compression socks vs. soccer socks and also no significant difference on subjective feel of improved running performing.  But the use of compression for recovery is something that has been a solid tool for a long time.

The body has a magnificent design for circulating not only blood to your body and especially your legs in our case but also for clearing out the "crap" in your system after a workout or a long day and delivering fresh blood and nutrients to damaged and worn out tissues.  The main clearing system responsible for all this to occur is the lymphatic system.  Comprised of its own networks of vessels throughout the body this system helps clear the waste upstream to collection points or nodes and eventually back to your core to be processed and eliminated.  Now, the lymph system is a passive system and needs help moving the junk fluid through the body.  This is accomplished by muscle contraction and at time graduated compression.

This is where compression socks can assist you in recovery and from having to deal with fat swollen ankles.  When we are done working out or after a long day one of the worst things we can do is sit down as this puts a "kink" in your lymphatic system at your ankles, knees and hips and muscle contraction basically stops. If you look at the image on the right you can see where we are "pinching" off this system when we have flexion in our knees and hips.  By using compression on your lower legs can help prevent the accumulation of fluid in your lower legs, ankles, and feet.  It helps counteract gravity (which we will not win against completely)  and keep fluids out of your lower limbs.

We can get a double effect if you're able to walk around and recover your legs after a workout while using your compression socks. At this point we are getting both the muscle contraction to help move everything through out body and the compression to help. Utilizing compression when you travel long distances in the car or on a plane trip makes an amazing difference.  This is one I've personally tried because I don't do a great job hydrating and always had fat ankles after traveling.  So far the compression socks are doing the trick and my legs feel better when I get there.

Compression socks aren't so expensive anymore and well worth a look online.  Check to the right of this article for one recommendation on Amazon.   If you travel a lot, have a desk job, generally feel like your circulation isn't great, or are looking for a better way to help recover your legs this is a simple tool that yields great results.

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