Anybody that’s ever donned compression hose or medical grade sports compression wear can attest to the arduous labor required to outfit this hosiery on oneself. During an effort to assist a client with proper application of compression socks, I was once struck upside the head by hand of the very gentleman I was attempting to assist. Here’s the story…
Dude was world travelling to Timbuktu, or someplace now eluding my memory. Anyhow, he’d recently discovered an unfortunate tragedy that had beseiged a good friend. His lifelong pal, returning from a golf excursion in Ireland, had died mid-flight after passing a blood clot through to his lung, resulting in death by what he’d termed ‘pulmonary embolism’. If he could help it, this client of ours would not be stricken by the same fate. So in his quest to seek out prevention from devestation on his own voyage, measured and fitted compression socks formed the object of his desire.
In the run shop we demonstrate what’s affectionately called the ‘Sock-Puppet’ trick as a means to more easily apply these super tight socks onto the leg.
- The Sock Puppet Trick — Reach into the cuff of knee-high compression sock. Pinch a bight of fabric in between your thumb and opposing four fingers from where the base of the achilles tendon pocket. Pull sock inside out. This results in an ankle high cuff to tbe easily holstered about the foot in the fashion of sliding on a low cut athletic sock. The sock is finaly turned right side out by simply rolling the sleeve up the leg.
Well this gentleman’s size was getting this best of him. You ever see big people tie shoes cross-legged? Yea kind of like that. So he’s seated and struggling to slide his foot into the inverted cuff. It was at this moment I decided to intervene. “May I lend a hand?”, I said. [Out of breath] “Of course”, he’d replied. So I’m down on a single bend knee, working to get this sock in place.
I maneuvered, widdled, and worked the sock onto his foot until it was nearly set. As often occurs, the final touch is a re-centering around the lower leg. So I begin pulling, adjusting, lifting… Just then, in the midst of pleasant conversation he shouts… “YOU’RE PINCHING THE SKIN!”. In that same instant, I experience a blow to the head, inducing a lapse in consciousness. I defensively stammered, “I’m sorry, I’m sorry, be cool!”. I’d been reflexively bludgeoned upside the head with the open hand of the very gentleman I was trying to assist. Needless to say there was a moment of obligatory reconciliation and recollecting ourselves before we got back to talking socks. He lived happily ever after.
All humorous anecdotes aside, compression socks are a pretty novel invention and serve as a super useful tool for athletes to enhance performance, expedite recovery, and facilitate injury prevention. Basically these garments were initially developed for use in lymphatic drainage (picture severe leg swelling), deep vein thrombosis (blod clot) prevention, and diabetic medical applications. The idea is to assist the vascular system with returning blood efficiently to the heart. Medi compression and their subsidiary sports compression called CEP are a 60+ year strong Medical Grade compression company that supply an excellent lineup of products.
Time for rapid fire anatomy: Arteries are the blood vessels that move oxygen-rich blood from the heart to working muscles. Veins circuit deoxygenated blood back to the heart to be pumped again. Because veins are more distant along the vascular pipeline and must battle gravity to return to the heart, graduated compression helps to squeeze blood up the leg like paste through a tube. For a better analogy, think of compression as elevating your legs above the level of your heart when you lounge feet up on the couch cushions. Instead of lying down however, you’re able to walk about your daily routine with the same bloodflow benefit.
- What is graduated compression? — 20-30 mmHG is the recommended pressure gradient for a level II medical grade compression garment. The squeeze is tightest (30 mmHG) in the foot compartment of the sock, and progressively tapers upwards to a more relaxed (20 mmHG) pressure just below the knee. This rating is most commonly utilized for sports compression. This is contrasted with ‘Support Stockings’ that are rated far lower, and serve primarily for conformity and hold on the legs rather than for medical benefits.
In running, the benefit of wearing compression becomes apparent. Compression makes the cardiovascular system more efficient by reducing the force and frequency with which the heart must pump in order to circulate oxygen to working muscles. Furthermore, swelling and inflammation during prolonged exercise is reduced. Let’s just say that nobody wants to be running around with puffy, sore feet. Compression wear results in light, limber legs ready for the miles that await.
One final major benefit of compression is ‘Muscle Containment’. It’s a term most frquently associated with the 2XU compression lineup and their patented ‘MCS’ compression line, which I full-heartedly endorse.
Essentially muscle containment has to do with mitigating the jarring force of your body’s displacement during each stride. The idea in running is ‘What goes up, must come down’. Small-scale ‘micro-tearing’ is minor muscular damage incurred upon impact. Compression forms a second skin of sorts that sausage cases muscles closer to the bones leading to greater stability and running efficiency. This is particularly relevant for triathletes with oversized quadriceps, runners with oversized calves, and most all weekend warriors who’ve yet to shed holiday weight from their seat cushion… just saying, compression tights.