Oct 03, 2019

by Team Snapbac

Compression gear has become a hot topic for both pro-athletes and weekend warriors, and when it comes to sports, athletic training, and working out, there is no denying its many benefits. Athletes are experiencing less injuries, decreased inflammation, and reduced pain post-workout. There are also many benefits to performance including more power due to greater circulation and oxygenation in the muscles and reduced fatigue as the pressure helps to eliminate metabolic waste like lactic acid. We love our compression gear on the field, at the gym, hitting the mat, and racing down the track, but what about daily life? With gym clothing and yoga tights becoming a fashion genre for street clothes, how does compression fit in? Can you wear it while sitting at your desk? Flying on a plane? Power shopping down the boulevard? Or while you’re sleeping?

Compression clothing was originally designed as medical equipment for people with vascular and heart conditions as a way to aid the circulatory system in blood flow. The benefits were later observed in regard to athletics, so compression gear as a fashion statement may not be your best choice. There is a rising field of shapewear that has had some adverse effects. Though not fatal, the tight clothing has caused some alarm and physical discomfort. The most common is in regard to compression tights, boxers, and girdles. The increased pressure throughout the abdomen pushes stomach acid back up into the esophagus causing acid reflux, nausea, and abdominal pain. It can also increase irritation for people who suffer from irritable bowel syndrome, IBS, colitis, and Crohn’s. Though compression shirts, pants, and girdles were popular as a diet aid, the constant pressure around your midsection is not doing your digestive tract any favors.

The skin tight clothing also increases risk of urinary tract infections and in large part due to the difficulty of pulling it on and off, so many people tend to wait when they need to use the restroom. The constant pressure can also restrict the space in the bladder causing irritation. For women, compression tights worn to often can reduce airflow and increase sweat causing vaginal infections. For men, the continued pressure can affect sperm count and cause rashes around the groin.

There is also an increased risk of meralgia paresthetica, a neurological condition that causes numbness, burning, and tingling along the nerves in the thigh from pressed or compacted nerve endings up in the groin.

At the end of the day, compression gear is a fantastic tool when used correctly. It mostly comes down to the intensity of the compression. If you’re using it for athletics and recovery, 15 – 25 mmHg is recommended for up to an hour before, the full duration, and an hour after performance. This includes your weekly gym sets or the big game. If you find yourself on your feet a lot or sitting a lot, 8 – 20 mmHg is recommended to support blood flow. This is ideal for jobs that keep you on your feet like nurses, servers, and airline attendants. It is also recommended for people who sit at a desk all day or are about to take a long flight. As for sleeping, the only reason to wear a low to moderate compression while in bed is for muscle recovery after a particularly strenuous game or training session.

Otherwise, leave compression to medical conditions and doctor’s orders.