Written by: Shannon Polk, Kudos Team Contributor
If you’ve ever had a leg cramp while exercising or experienced pain in your lower legs while training for a marathon, compression socks could be a great solution for you. Why? Compression socks can increase blood flow, prevent cramps and improve muscle recovery. Sounds good, right?
My first run-in with compression socks isn’t a particularly fond memory—I was in the middle of a soccer game and experiencing severe tightness and pain in my calves. I could barely walk, much less run, so I was subbed out of the game and attended to by the trainer, who immediately put compression sleeves on my legs to increase blood flow and reduce tissue swelling.
So how does it work?
Leg swelling, pain or fatigue can be caused when blood is not circulating back to your heart effectively and it pools in the veins of your feet and lower legs. Compression socks and sleeves provide graduated compression—tighter compression at the bottom of the sock and looser compression moving up to the top of the sock—to help blood circulate more efficiently back to the heart. By wearing compression socks, you are squeezing the tissues and walls of the veins in your legs to improve blood and lymph flow. Lymph is a fluid containing white blood cells that bathes the tissues and drains through the lymphatic system into the bloodstream; therefore, improving lymph flow can help reduce tissue swelling.
What about muscle tightness and recovery?
Improved blood flow (as a result of compression) means more oxygen is moving throughout your body, which is good for your muscles! Your heart pumps blood containing oxygen and nutrients to the cells in your muscles. After your cells receive this blood from your heart, the deoxygenated blood, along with any lactic acid from your muscles, flows back to the heart. By improving circulation with compression socks, you’re effectively speeding up the time in which deoxygenated blood and lactic acid return to the heart, which in turn can improve muscle recovery and help decrease muscle soreness.
When should compression socks be worn?
Anytime! If you’re sitting for long stretches (like on a plane or driving in a car), compression socks will help keep the blood moving in your legs and could help prevent the formation of a blood clot. You can also wear compression socks like the running sock collection from CEP while exercising to improve blood flow and decrease swelling in the legs. I personally find them most effective post-workout to help prevent muscle soreness the next day.
If you’re experiencing leg pain, it’s best to consult a physician who will be better equipped to find the root of it. But don’t be surprised if they do in fact recommend some sort of compression!