Does Compression Help with Swelling?
Exploring the Impact of Compression on Swelling
From ice packs to heat therapy, sports massages to salt baths, there are a host of ways to help manage swelling.
One, however, might slip your mind when you’re internally debating home remedies for swelling: Compression. Whether you choose a pair of medical-grade socks or opt for one of the many devices now on the market, compression therapy may have the power to mitigate swelling and the tenderness that can come with it.
How does compression help with swelling, exactly? Keep scrolling to find out.
Compression therapy officially got its start somewhere between 350 and 450 BC when healers in the age of Hippocrates believed that consistent pressure applied to the lower limbs—namely, the calves and ankles—could help patients suffering from leg wounds gain ground in the battle against gravity and, in turn, expedite their recovery.
Research indicates that the ancient Greeks were onto something vital. Exerting targeted pressure on the veins, whether through a tight-fitting compression stocking or wrap, offers several potential benefits, including:
- Improved blood circulation
- Reduced soreness and stiffness
- Decreased fluid build-up
- Diminished swelling
The concept has more or less remained the same in the centuries since compression therapy’s introduction, albeit with some key advancements. Today, compression hoses have given way to what’s known as intermittent pneumatic compression (IPC) devices. These are instruments that have been favored by healthcare professionals, athletes, and more for their capacity to enhance overall wellness.
Air compression therapy, or dynamic compression therapy, takes compression therapy a step further. Rather than static pressure, intermittent pneumatic compression (IPC) tools and inflatable devices provide pulses of air, via the use of a pump, to provide pressure at intervals.
Typically, these devices—which are available as cuffs, sleeves, massagers, mats, and more—are used on the lower extremities, such as the feet, ankles, and calves.
To understand why, let’s go back to the idea of gravity.
If someone stands for a prolonged period of time or sits for an extended length or even engages in a workout that requires a great deal of time on their feet, their natural blood flow may be stymied. Pulses of pressure, meanwhile, invigorate circulation and prompt blood away from pooling in the limbs and back to the heart.
There is a distinct connection between compression and swelling. Swelling can be caused by any number of both quotidian and crucial events and conditions, including:
- Injuries (like hitting your funny bone on the counter)
- Bee stings
- Exercise, particularly intense exercise
- Thyroid complications
- Varicose veins
- Excess sodium
Put simply, swelling occurs when fluid accumulates in your tissues and is oftentimes an organic side effect of inflammation.
Enhanced circulation may urge swelling to go down by heightening the amount of oxygen and nutrients in the blood and delivering both to cells to assist in healing in a process known as vasodilation. What’s more, improved blood flow supports injuries by helping immune cells reach and manage the damaged tissue.
In a word: Yes.
It may seem counterproductive to apply pressure on a part of the body that’s distended. Yet, that very pressure promotes circulation. At the same time, compression—whether through a garment like stockings or an intermittent pneumatic compression device—may temper the discomfort that frequently goes hand in hand with swelling of any kind.
Whether you choose an inflatable air compression device or compression boots, the myriad of compression therapy benefits include:
- Long-distance travelers
- Fitness instructors
- Healthcare professionals
As we pointed out, compression may also be prescribed to individuals who have any of the health conditions or circumstances listed above, while anyone who sits or stands at length might also reap rewards from compression therapy.
So, when should you use compression therapy? You don’t need to be injured or swollen to relish the advantages of compression therapy. Circulatory health is health, and anyone interested in upping their wellness game might find themselves delighted with a bit of compression in their life.
Whether you’re an avid runner who’s experiencing swollen feet from extensive training or your ankles have expanded en route from San Francisco to New York City, you needn’t rely on merely elevating your legs to experience relief.
At Homedics, we offer an expert-crafted line of compression therapy products to help you feel downright amazing. Our air compression back stretching mat, for one, up-levels both your yoga and stretching practices, while our Real Relief Calf Compression Massager and Real Relief Full Leg Air Compression System may help revitalize tired, sore, and swollen limbs and muscles.
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Mayo Clinic. Hand swelling during exercise: a concern?
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Nationwide Children’s. Inflammation and swelling: what you need to know.
National Health Service. How long should I wear compression stockings to improve my circulation?