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Putting the Squeeze on Compression Garments: Current Evidence and Recommendations for Future Research: A Systematic Scoping Review

PainSci » bibliography » Weakley et al 2022
Tags: treatment, movement, sports, exercise, self-treatment

Two articles on PainSci cite Weakley 2022: 1. Shin Splints Treatment, The Complete Guide2. The Complete Guide to Muscle Strains

PainSci notes on Weakley 2022:

This is a mostly negative review of 183 studies of compression training, showing “a positive effect on sensorimotor systems” at best, but despite that there is “little evidence supporting improvements in kinetic or kinematic outcomes” and “it is unlikely that compression garments meaningfully change metabolic responses, blood pressure, heart rate, and cardiorespiratory measures.” Basically, they feel nice. and maybe that’s worth something, but it doesn’t seem to translate into anything serious that athletes care about. Science writer Alex Hutchinson for Outside:

“Among those 183 studies, you can find ample evidence for whatever position you want to defend about compression — that they’re a miracle, a scam, or somewhere in between.”

original abstract Abstracts here may not perfectly match originals, for a variety of technical and practical reasons. Some abstacts are truncated for my purposes here, if they are particularly long-winded and unhelpful. I occasionally add clarifying notes. And I make some minor corrections.

BACKGROUND: Compression garments are regularly worn during exercise to improve physical performance, mitigate fatigue responses, and enhance recovery. However, evidence for their efficacy is varied and the methodological approaches and outcome measures used within the scientific literature are diverse. OBJECTIVES: The aim of this scoping review is to provide a comprehensive overview of the effects of compression garments on commonly assessed outcome measures in response to exercise, including: performance, biomechanical, neuromuscular, cardiovascular, cardiorespiratory, muscle damage, thermoregulatory, and perceptual responses. METHODS: A systematic search of electronic databases (PubMed, SPORTDiscus, Web of Science and CINAHL Complete) was performed from the earliest record to 27 December, 2020. RESULTS: In total, 183 studies were identified for qualitative analysis with the following breakdown: performance and muscle function outcomes: 115 studies (63%), biomechanical and neuromuscular: 59 (32%), blood and saliva markers: 85 (46%), cardiovascular: 76 (42%), cardiorespiratory: 39 (21%), thermoregulatory: 19 (10%) and perceptual: 98 (54%). Approximately 85% (n = 156) of studies were published between 2010 and 2020. CONCLUSIONS: Evidence is equivocal as to whether garments improve physical performance, with little evidence supporting improvements in kinetic or kinematic outcomes. Compression likely reduces muscle oscillatory properties and has a positive effect on sensorimotor systems. Findings suggest potential increases in arterial blood flow; however, it is unlikely that compression garments meaningfully change metabolic responses, blood pressure, heart rate, and cardiorespiratory measures. Compression garments increase localised skin temperature and may reduce perceptions of muscle soreness and pain following exercise; however, rating of perceived exertion during exercise is likely unchanged. It is unlikely that compression garments negatively influence exercise-related outcomes. Future research should assess wearer belief in compression garments, report pressure ranges at multiple sites as well as garment material, and finally examine individual responses and varying compression coverage areas.

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