Medical Compression Vs. Shapewear

What Is Shapewear?

Quite simply, shapewear is a type of undergarment that helps to temporarily shape and smoothen your body by way of compressing your body and redistributing your flesh. They emphasize your natural curves while simultaneously minimizing or hiding those parts you don’t usually like when you’ve got on a tight outfit.

Historically, women have worn shapewear, aka shaping underwear, since long ago. Of course, the most famous example is the corset, which cinched the waist and flattened the stomach. However, with time, corsets went out of fashion and were replaced by other types of shapewear that were easier to put on and more comfortable.

Thankfully, due to the recent advances in fabric technology, today’s shapewear is as comfortable. However, they can still make your body look amazing and help your clothes fit better. As such, countless people tend to have a shaping undergarment in their closet, be it a full-body suit or a simple girdle.

It’s worth noting that shapewear, referred to as Spanx, is a famous brand that has become synonymous with shapewear. Nevertheless, other brands that sell shapewear exist, and nowadays, even Target or Amazon have their share of the shapewear market.

What Are Medical Compression Garments?

Similar to shapewear, medical compression garments also apply pressure on your body. However, they differ by having a pressure level that can improve your blow flow and healing capabilities.

So, as you can see, medical compression garments are mostly worn for medical reasons, though they do play a specific role in aesthetics.

You wear medical compression garments for one or two reasons, either as a postoperative therapeutic aid or to help patients with vascular problems such as lymphedema and deep vein thrombosis.

Medical compression garments aid in post-op recovery surgical procedures such as liposuction, C-sections, etc. They’re only worn for a certain period until they fully and completely heal the patent.

Meanwhile, vascular-affected patients have to keep wearing their garments for as long as their illness affects them, which can be a lifetime for some people.

Still, medical compression garments aren’t limited to the previous cases. Athletes can also wear them to help enhance performance and decrease injuries. Some people also use them for body shaping.

Honestly, medical compression garments have many uses and various health benefits. However, that doesn’t mean that shapewear doesn’t have its advantages. So, let’s take a look at the benefits of each garment and see which one suits your needs more.

Medical Compression Vs. Shapewear: Benefits of Shapewear

Improves Appearance

With shapewear, the first and most noticeable benefit is an improvement in your body silhouette.

You don’t lose weight while wearing the garment, but you can look as if you’ve lost a couple of inches of your waist. And in contrast to the smaller waist, you appear to have a larger bust and fuller hips, giving you that much-desired hourglass shape. Certain shapewear can also lift your buttocks or thin out your thighs if that’s the look you were searching to achieve.

Best of all, shapewear can prevent the appearance of the much-dreaded muffin-top that shows its presence with low-rise jeans. And when you want to wear that tight dress or top, shapewear takes care of that belly pooch that’s bothering you.

Finally, shapewear can also help you with your fight against gravity and time. It supports your body and lifts it, slowing down the development of droopy hips, beer belly, saggy breasts, and flat butts. All in all, you can improve and even maintain your appearance by wearing shapewear on the regular. However, this is all there is to shapewear.

Enhances Posture and Strengthens Muscles

Yup. Believe it or not, shapewear can also improve your posture. Due to its compressive nature, shapewear makes you stand straighter and taller, with your back straight and your shoulders rolled backward.

Moreover, thanks to its support, shapewear can also help relieve any strain or pain you’ve been having in your mid and lower back. Accordingly, shapewear is excellent for people who typically have lousy posture and sit at their desks for long periods.

Mid Thigh Body Shaper Slit Crotch by Contour - Style 27 27-MTBSP

Shapewear is also great for mothers who recently gave birth, and that’s because the slight pressure on their bodies can help strengthen their recently weakened abdominal muscles. More substantial recovery means that these mothers will return to their pre-pregnancy shape in a much shorter time.

Boosts Self-Esteem and Encourages Weight Loss

Even though shapewear doesn’t make you lose weight, it shows you what you can look like if you do. Accordingly, it can be an excellent motivator to eat healthier and exercise more.

It’s a simple cycle.

A minor boost in your confidence and self-esteem can be all you need to start working towards a better and healthier you. And once you start seeing the results of your hard work, you’ll become even more confident in your appearance.

Take care that shapewear can also help in your weight loss journey by allowing you to control your portions. Since it compresses your stomach as you’re having a meal, you’ll be much more aware of when you’re starting to get full. Accordingly, you’ll eat smaller portions than usual and shed some pounds.

Medical Compression Vs. Shapewear: Benefits of Medical Compression Garments

Shortens and Eases Recovery Process

If you’re undergoing a C-section, breast augmentation, or a liposuction procedure any time shortly, compression garments are an absolute must.

They greatly accelerate your healing process through their pressure on your body. So, what exactly does that pressure do?

First off, compression garments improve your blood circulation, providing more therapeutic elements to the surgical site, thus speeding up your healing. Not only that, but they also prevent excessive fluid accumulation by improving drainage near the surgical site.

Accordingly, they reduce your postoperative swelling, bruising, and ecchymosis. The pressure can also make you feel protected, soothe your pain, and make your recovery period more comfortable. When you use a compression garment with lipo foam under your compression garment, you will achieve optimal results quicker.

All plastic surgery patients should wear compression garments during their recovery period. The patients will experience fewer postoperative complications and have a faster and more comfortable recovery process.

Improves Post-Surgical Appearance

Appearance-wise, medical compression garments are crucial for any plastic surgery patient.

They help patients achieve their desired esthetic after surgery by molding and holding the tissues in their optimal place. Accordingly, they result in an even smooth silhouette, with no bumps, rolls, or waves. It also prevents any sagging that may happen with time.

Additionally, compression garments prevent the appearance of skin wrinkles, dents, and creases post-op. The reduction in negative results, in turn, prevents the need for further correction surgeries and helps you keep your money in the bank.

Helps With Vascular Disorders

Remember how we said that pressure could improve circulation and drainage? Improving circulation and drainage is why compression garments or stockings help patients with vascular and lymphatic disorders.

For example, lymphedema patients typically wear compression garments to alleviate their symptoms. The pressure from the stockings promotes the drainage of the lymphatic fluid from the affected tissues into the general circulation. Then, the liquid is redistributed to other body parts, thereby eliminating the patient’s symptoms.

Patients who are liable to form a thrombus, especially patients with deep vein thrombosis, are also advised to wear compression garments.

The same applies to patients with phlebitis, chronic venous insufficiency, varicose veins, and even a swollen ankle. The compression will improve blood circulation and increase drainage, resulting in fewer symptoms and better healing.

The Difference Between Medical Compression Garments and Shapewear

So, how do medical compression garments and shapewear differ other than their function and benefits?

For one, medical compression garments have better construction and use modern manufacturing techniques, and that’s not the case with shapewear. Their design is generally more sophisticated and complex, though shapewear usually takes the crown for style and beauty.

While medical compression garments can also look fashionable, their appearance isn’t the focus; the focus is the garment’s function. Accordingly, medical compression garments construct of solid and durable fabrics that withstand continuous wear, and they also have to resist constant washing and drying.

In contrast, shapewear is only meant to be worn occasionally and does not have the medical-grade compression required for postoperative wear. Most shapewear tends to lose its compression after a few cycles in the wash, becoming more flimsy with each one.

Still, as you well know, shapewear is designed with the sole purpose of helping you look your best. You’ll find that good shapewear will have its stitching on the inside so no one can tell that you’re wearing something underneath that tight outfit.

The stitching on medical-grade compression garments is on the outside of the garment to reduce irritation to the skin.

Stitching on the outside prevents the seams from digging into your incisions, preventing your skin from forming indentations or wrinkles. Accordingly, their outlines can be pretty apparent under tight clothing, so it’s best to wear them with clothes that have a looser fit.

The final and most important difference between medical compression garments and shapewear is the statement of compression ranges. Compression ranges are mainly for compression garments made for the arms and legs, which will have a number expressing how much pressure it’ll exert on your body in a unit called millimeter per mercury (mmHg).

The pressure can be anywhere from mild to extra firm. And it can even be graduated, where some points are tighter than the others. The pressure is mainly to promote the movement of your blood and lymph against gravity, helping them move from your appendages towards your heart.

Which Undergarment Should You Choose?

So, this is the ultimate question, shapewear or compression garment?

Honestly, the answer will depend on what you want from the undergarment. Are you simply looking to flatter your curves for a fun night out, or do you have medical needs that Individuals can only address with a compression garment?

Yes, both hug and sculpt the body, but each works differently. So, if you want to refine your silhouette and even out that cellulite, you should get some shapewear from Spanx or Target.

However, if you want actual compression garments, you’ve come to the right place. At ContourMD, we specialize in medical-grade compression garments, and we’re not in the body shaper market.

So, if you’re looking to buy a compression garment in preparation for your future procedure, our surgeon-approved medical compression garments will be just the thing for you. We can even customize our garments to fit drainage tubes if needed.


Can I Wear a Medical-Grade Compression Garment as Shapewear?

Well, you can, but we wouldn’t recommend it. Unfortunately, some compression garments can be pretty bulky, and the bulge will show through your clothes.

But, for argument’s sake, let’s say you choose a relatively sleek compression garment. Is it okay now? You have to make sure you’re not wearing something skin-tight, or the outside stitching will show. However, if you’re OK with this, then knock yourself out. Otherwise, get yourself proper shapewear and be done with it.

How Often Do I Need to Clean My Medical-Grade Compression Garment?

With compression garments, professionals recommend that you wash them daily or after each use to restore the elasticity of the fibers. We generally recommend buying at least two compression garments, one while the other is in the wash.

However, take care that you have to wash the garments properly, or else the washing will have an opposite effect on your garment’s elasticity.

How Should You Clean Your Compression Garment?

Your hand should wash your compression garment using a fabric wash named Variance. Unlike regular detergents and soap, this cleaning agent won’t attract dirt to your attire, nor will it damage its fibers or cause them to change colors.

Remember to avoid damaging the elastic material, especially to stay away from bleach, harsh detergents, and fabric softeners. Once you wash the garment, air-dry it as, sadly, the dryer can damage the garment.

For Which Surgeries Should I Get a Compression Garment?

Patients should wear compression garments with liposuction for their arms, chin, thighs, stomach, or buttocks. Patients should also wear them with breast augmentations, reductions, or lifts. The same goes for butt implants or any other procedure that permanently alters the shape of your body.

What Are the Types of Compression Garments?

There are various types of compression garments, including compression briefs, bodysuits, girdles, vests, chin straps, etc.


Though medical compression garments and shapewear may initially appear to have the same function and appearance, the two are widely different—shapewear gears towards shaping your body and accentuating your curves for a short time. Meanwhile, medical compression garments have more of a permanent effect.

They stop your skin from sagging postoperatively, and they also mold your body into its ideal shape. Moreover, medical-grade compression garments promote the healing of your surgical wounds and hasten your recovery process.

They improve your circulation and fluid drainage, thus reducing the swelling and bruising you usually have after a surgical procedure. Not only that, but medical-grade compression garments can also help to alleviate and treat the symptoms of various vascular disorders such as lymphedema or phlebitis.

Medical compression garments have both a medical and esthetic function, while shapewear is just for your looks.

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