Research suggests there are no benefits of compression stockings to runners

Although compression stockings are popular among runners, there is no scientific proof that they improve workout performance. Muscle oxygenation in the stocking wearer’s lower leg is lowered during running. This is shown in a Doctoral thesis from the University of Gothenburg in Sweden.

December 10, 2022


4 min


Gothenburg [Sweden], December 10 (ANI): Even though runners frequently wear compression stockings, there is no evidence to support the claim that it is beneficial for them.
Running reduces muscle oxygenation in the lower leg of the stocking wearer. A doctoral thesis from the University of Gothenburg in Sweden demonstrates this.
In advertising directed at runners, compression stockings are claimed to have several benefits that boost performance and endurance in exercise. Exercise compression stockings are said to improve blood circulation and reduce muscle damage, with reduced muscle soreness as one result.
“There have been a few studies in the past on the effect of compression stockings, but the results have been contradictory. Our study is the first in which the intramuscular oxygenation and pressure have been measured before, during and after running,” says Sophia Halldin Lindorsson, a specialist in orthopaedics and PhD at Sahlgrenska Academy, University of Gothenburg, who authored the thesis.
In the study, 20 experienced runners ran 10 kilometres (approx. 6.3 miles) on a treadmill. The test was conducted on two occasions, once with compression stockings and once without. All the runners thus served as their own controls. During the run, a catheter was used to record the intramuscular pressure in the front muscle of the lower leg, and local oxygenation in the muscle was measured by sensors on the skin.
Evidence for enhanced performance lacking
As soon as the study participants put on the compression stockings, a distinct rise in pressure in their lower-leg muscles was noted. During the run with compression stockings, their average intramuscular pressure was 22 mmHg (millimetre of mercury) higher, while their muscle oxygenation was 11 per cent lower than during the run without compression stockings.
The study also measured myoglobin and creatine kinase, two markers of muscle damage that are measured in the blood.
“We took blood samples both before and after the running sessions and couldn’t see any reduction in muscle damage markers when the runners were wearing compression stockings. This finding, along with the reduced oxygenation in the musculature, supports previous theories that compression stockings have no performance-enhancing effect in healthy people,” Halldin Lindorsson says.
Medical compression stockings are another type and for these, in contrast, there is sound scientific evidence that they help certain patient groups. Increasing pressure in the leg maintains venous blood flow, preventing blood clots and counteracting swelling.
Treatable lower-leg pain suffered by many
The thesis contains three further studies that all address intramuscular pressure in patients with chronic exertional compartment syndrome. The syndrome arises from the pressure in the lower leg muscles rising to an abnormally high level during exercise, which leads to swelling of the muscles, pain, and impaired function. The pain occurs during activity, usually on the front of the lower legs.
“Chronic exertional compartment syndrome is a painful condition that many people probably suffer from without knowing. It’s also often missed when they see the doctor, probably because the pain goes away at rest,” Halldin Lindorsson says.
“I’ve met a lot of patients who have had pain in their lower legs from exertion for as long as they can remember, and thought they had to live with it. But there’s an operation that helps, and my research has shown that the treatment has good results. If more people knew about this diagnosis, a lot of them would avoid unnecessary suffering,” Halldin Lindorsson said. (ANI)

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