Everything You Need to Know About Compression Garments
What Are Compression Garments?
Compression garments are tight clothes made from nylon, elastin, or any breathable fabric. They’re famous among athletes and fitness fans because they believe that those garments enhance their performance and improve recovery. But, unfortunately, there’s not much scientific evidence to back this up.
In medical terms, compression garments support people who stand for a long time and those with poor blood circulation. For instance, they wear them during long trips to reduce swelling and prevent deep vein thrombosis.
They also bear a considerable significance in post-surgery recovery for people who underwent body contouring procedures, like breast augmentation.
The degrees of compression vary according to use and doctors’ prescriptions. Some patients are required to wear those garments for up to a year. But luckily, there are many stages to wearing compression garments, and not all of them are incredibly tight on the skin. Instead, some are suitable for wearing daily.
Benefits of Compression Garments
Here’s a roundup of the benefits of compression garments in different fields.
Although science doesn’t have enough evidence, many athletes believe that wearing compression garments during their exercises helps them. For instance, speed skaters wear breathable, spandex suits to keep their bodies warm during workouts. Meanwhile, outdoor volleyball players wear SPF compression garments to protect their skin from sun rays.
Supposedly, compression garments increase joint awareness, lessen fatigue, enhance the removal of waste products, and reduce muscle pain.
Childbirth puts quite the pressure on women’s bodies. That’s why some doctors recommend that their patients wear compression garments afterward. The garments made of breathable and lightweight fabrics aid both C-section and natural birth mothers in the following:
- Lessen postpartum bleeding
- Reduce swelling
- Improve posture by stabilizing core
- Improve mobility
Some mothers wear those garments for a few weeks, while some wear them for up to many months. It ultimately depends on their healing processes and doctors’ recommendations.
The most famous garments that patients wear to improve blood circulation are compression socks and stockings. They apply pressure to the patient’s lower leg, therefore, maintaining the body’s blood flow and reducing swelling. Doctors often prescribe compression socks and stockings for patients who suffer from lymphoedema or varicose veins.
But how do they work? Well, during circulation, blood travels the longest distance between your heart and feet. Gravity helps the blood go down fast, but it becomes a bit of a challenge when the blood has to go against gravity back to the heart. It uses veins with one-way valves, but those veins can stretch and cause blood to pool in the legs with age.
This is where compression garments come in handy, as they reduce the veins’ diameters and return them to their original shapes. In turn, this causes blood to flow faster back to the heart and returns the circulation to normal.
Many surgeries require the use of compression garments afterward to speed up recovery. For example, tummy tuck surgery, Brazilian butt lift procedure, breast augmentation surgeries, and liposuction treatments, to name a few.
After body shaping surgeries, compression garments aren’t only advisable but necessary. They help in the following:
- Speed up the healing process
- Support the body’s new shape
- Reduce swelling and discomfort
- Lessen the risk of post-surgery infections
To elaborate, body shaping surgeries often disrupt the body’s blood vessels, which causes the fluid inside them to move into other tissue. As a result, a fluid build-up, known as seroma, prevents essential nutrients and oxygen from reaching the tissue. This may cause swelling, which significantly slows and disrupts the recovery process.
Compression garments come to the rescue in this case as they apply constant pressure to specific areas of your body. This pressure improves circulation and helps the body get rid of the fluid build-up. Moreover, compression garments support the skin and help it shrink to its new shape.
Stages of Compression Garments After Body Shaping Surgeries
This ultimately depends on your doctor’s recommendation, but here’s a brief roundup of the stages of compression garments.
The first stage usually takes about two to four weeks after your surgery. During this period, you should wear your compression garments at all times, except during showering.
This is because your body will not have healed yet, and you’ll have a fluid build-up that might get worse if you remove your garments. Also, since compression garments have to be washed and air-dried, you should have two of each garment to avoid spending time without them.
During the second stage, your body won’t produce as many fluids as before. So you can lessen the time of wearing your compression garments. However, they’re still essential to ensure your skin has proper tissue adherence and retraction. Typically, this phase takes about three or four weeks.
During the third stage, your body will have visible contours and be beautifully defined. So you won’t have to wear your compression garments as much as before. Some people wear regular shapewear instead during this phase to mold their bodies into a more contoured shape.
It’s worth mentioning that swelling and recovery differ from one body to another, so you might need to wear compression garments during this stage constantly. All in all, you should rely on your doctor’s recommendation.
Compression Garments Features
When buying compression garments for any purpose, you’ll notice that they have many properties and features. Here are the ones you should know about before purchasing.
Since compression garments are often worn after surgeries when there are sutures in the skin, some have antibacterial properties. For example, some brands manufacture garments that have silver nanoparticles. Those particles prevent bacterial growth in sutures; therefore, protecting your skin from infections.
Some compression garments are manufactured from breathable fabrics, but some aren’t. If you want ultimate comfort, you’ll appreciate the breathable ones more. They also prevent itching and scratching your skin, which might be irritating, especially after surgeries.
Moreover, breathable fabrics keep your skin comfortable and dry, thus reducing sweating.
Some budget-friendly compression garments aren’t as durable as others. This is fine if you only need to wear those garments for a short time. But if you plan on keeping them around for months, you should look for more durable ones.
Since people wear compression garments nearly all day, they should be comfortable enough. Thankfully, many clothes nowadays are made from moisture-wicking materials. Those are meticulously designed to keep your skin dry for the longest time possible. As a result, you’ll be safer against bacterial infections and more comfortable.
After surgery, the skin is often ultra-sensitive. So any garment with seams might not be the best option. They also press on the sutures uncomfortably and may cause dull pain. Luckily, most compression garments come with seamless designs to ensure comfort.
Compression garments don’t come with Velcro closures as binders do. Instead, they often have hook-and-eye closures or simple zippers. After surgery, those are much better for you since they’ll hold the garment in place better than Velcro.
Also, high-quality zippers glide smoothly, which means no irritating moments of trying to budge a stuck zipper out of its place. Plus, the hooks are easy to close and open so that they won’t strain your arms.
All in all, you should choose garments with the closure you find most comfortable, whether it’s the zipper or the hooks.
Types of Compression Garments
There are many types of compression garments that you can wear, and each one has its benefits. Now, let’s jump into the types.
Compression bandages are often made of elastic, breathable fabrics, and they help relieve swelling and pain in many tissue injuries. For example, they might be necessary in cases of bone injuries.
Those bandages are pretty versatile so that you can wrap them around any injured area in your body. And luckily, they come in many lengths and widths to fit all patients. While some of them come with Velcro closures, some might require medical tape.
Stockings and Socks
Compression stockings and socks are pretty familiar among blood circulation patients. But, some football players wear them because they believe that they reduce muscle damage and stress. Compression socks are often manufactured from strong and breathable materials. This way, they apply pressure without limiting blood and airflow.
There are many designs available for compression socks, and they’re suitable for both men and women.
Compression leggings are mainly used for sports, not for medical purposes. Some studies theorized that they fasten the recovery of muscle function after exercise and reduce fatigue.
However, they aren’t as comfortable as socks or shorts because they cover large areas of your body. This might be irritating during exercise because of restricted movements and sweating.
Compression sleeves, also commonly known as compression braces, are long garments that apply pressure around your limbs or joints. They come in handy in cases of lymphoedema and poor blood circulation. People often wear them around knees, ankles, wrists, calves, arms, elbows, and feet.
Many athletes wear compression sleeves during exercise, but their purpose is primarily medical.
Compression bras are often necessary after any breast surgery, whether for medical or cosmetic purposes. They come in many shapes, and most of them have frontal closures to make it easier for patients to wear and take them off.
The compression bra’s primary role is to reduce underarm and chest swelling after surgery due to fluid build-up. It also reduces inflammation and lessens the risk of infection.
Compression girdles are most familiar among postpartum women. They’re often flexible, breathable, and high-waisted to improve posture. In addition, they have eye clasps and hooks so that each woman can adjust the size according to her current condition and liking.
The reason those girdles are necessary is because of the hormone relaxin. It increases during pregnancy and stays around for a while after labor. Its primary role is stretching your muscles so that your body can house the fetus.
While relaxin helps during pregnancy and labor, it becomes a bit of a headache afterward as women often want their bodies to get back in shape, but it takes time. This is where compression girdles come in handy as they help muscles retract to their standard shape till relaxin decreases again.
Another garment that’s famous among postpartum patients is the compression belly band. Its main role is exerting light pressure on the muscles that got weak and stretched due to pregnancy. As a result, the muscles retract to their normal shape faster.
Of course, your muscles will eventually contract, even if you don’t use any compression garments. But some women, specifically athletes and models, like to get their bodies back in the shortest time possible. Women often wear belly bands during pregnancy, not after it like they do with girdles.
Some studies also suggested that abdominal binding helps women retain their body posture and improve their trunk flexion.
Compression Garments vs. Shapewear
Body shapewear and medical compression garments resemble each other significantly in appearance. However, they have different roles and benefits.
While they both have the same role of applying pressure on specific body areas, shapewear often has solely cosmetic purposes. People buy it to improve their body’s appearance and highlight certain curves. They usually wear them under dresses and suits.
Meanwhile, people use medical compression garments to treat severe health conditions and improve recovery processes after surgeries.
Since they look similar, it might be challenging to tell the differences between them. But we’ll help you.
First of all, medical compression garments often have the compression range listed in millimeters of mercury (mm/Hg). This is because not all conditions require the same degree.
For example, your doctor might prescribe you mild, moderate, or firm compression according to your body requirements and condition. Conversely, cosmetic body shapewear would never have any range written on it.
Also, medical compression garments provide graduated pressure around the body, while body shapewear doesn’t. For instance, compression socks and sleeves provide tighter pressure at the furthest points from the heart and less pressure at the closest points.
In contrast, cosmetic shapewear gives your body a more toned shape by applying the same amount of pressure on all areas. This doesn’t affect your health in any way, but it might limit your ability to take long and deep breaths or move comfortably.
Frequently Asked Questions
How Tight Should a Compression Garment Be?
A compression garment should be tight enough to improve your recovery or treat your health condition, but it shouldn’t limit your ability to move or breathe.
If you wear your garment and feel that you can’t sit or walk properly, then it’s too tight for you. That said, those garments are known to be uncomfortable, so you should know the difference between pain and limited movements before taking them off.
Can I Wear My Compression Garments to Sleep?
You should address this point with your doctor since it differs according to body conditions. However, generally, you can wear your compression garments to sleep. They’ll help you recover faster and give you your desired body results.
How Long Will I Have to Wear My Compression Garment?
The exact time can significantly vary according to the medical procedure you went through. For example, postpartum women can wear compression garments for four months. But the average range of cosmetic surgeries is four to six weeks, like in breast augmentation and butt lifts.
Why Can’t I Wear My Compression Garments During Shower?
Technically, you can, but it isn’t wise. They’ll get wet and may take a long time to dry, and this won’t be the best situation because you should wear them all day long. Also, as long as you wear your garments right after your shower, taking them off won’t affect your healing process.
To Wrap Up
Since compression garments found their way to the market, recovering after surgeries has become smoother and faster than before. They reduce swelling, lessen the risk of bacterial infections, and support the body’s shape. Not only that, but they also come in handy during exercise, for blood circulation patients, and after giving birth.
Luckily, they come in many shapes, materials, and sizes. They also provide different features to fit every need. So no matter what you need them for, you’ll find your perfect match.