By Stephen Karam PT, DPT
This is a great question and makes for great conversation with Physicians, Physical Therapists, Athletic Trainers and Personal Trainers. The answer is…”maybe and probably not”.
Let’s first establish some necessary uses of compression stockings. The post-surgical patient may be required and need a compression stocking or TED Hose Brand stocking to serve as a fluid pump for blood and lymph in prevention of a deep vein thrombosis (DVT) which could be life threatening. Another necessary use is for the individual with a significant lymphatic drainage pathology. They need the compression to help pump the lymph/edema back to the heart and into the circulatory system from the limbs.
Compression stocking manufacturers for athletes have a litany of claims:
- Enhanced blood circulation to limbs
- Reducing blood lactate concentration
- Increased vertical jump (what!?!)
- Reducing the effects of delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS)
- Enhancing warm-up through increased skin temperature
- Prevention of both acute and chronic injuries
What we know is that there is numerous research examining the physiological effects of compression stockings with athletes and performance. There are a few studies that consistently demonstrate that compression stockings help to reduce blood lactate concentration during tests on both treadmill and bicycle ergometers. This would potentially result in improved performance with short-medium distance high intensity sprints and bike rides by allowing the athlete to perform at a higher intensity slightly longer. There is also research that states there may be improved vertical jump height and improved repetitive jump performance by reducing muscle oscillation at landing impact. This research regarding the improvements in vertical jump needs to be approached with caution as most of the studies have a limited number of participants.
Most of the research strongly suggests that the results they found need to be studied further which is a very fair statement. They also suggest that there may be no performance improvement in elite or well trained athletes. It appears wearing compression stockings in colder environments may help keep your skin temperature increased, which may improve some of your joint awareness, but does not provide joint stability.
There does not appear to be any negative performance attributes to wearing compression stockings other than maybe a hit to your wallet, but for me personally it is still a hard sell.
Image from: mypypeline-triathlon.blogspot.com/2009/06/low-down-of-compression-socks.html
KORT Physical Therapy Clinic Director Stephen Karam PT, DPT earned his doctorate in physical therapy from the University of Kentucky after completing a bachelor’s degree in exercise science. He is a member of the American Physical Therapy Association (APTA). He specializes in manual therapy with a strong emphasis in orthopedics and sports medicine. In his spare time, he enjoys tennis, working out, music and football. www.kort.com