Blog #5: Compression and Recovery by Chris Schattinger, MS(c), CSCS, CISSN

     If you have ever sought to purchase a pair of compression pants it is common to see that the primary claim made by the seller is “enhanced recovery”. In a previously reviewed study, it was found that subjects perceived they were less sore 24-hours after exercise when knee-length compression shorts were worn. We noted that it was most important that the subjects perceived they were less sore however this perception was not substantiated by biomarkers. Bieuzen et al. (2014) aimed fill this gap in literature by testing recovery via perceived soreness and levels of different biomarkers (Creatine Kinase (CK) and Interleukin-6 (IL-6) = muscle damage which equates to soreness). The authors recruited 11 highly trained male trail runners and subjected them to a 15.6km mountainous terrain run. The run was completed 3 times with each run being separated by a week. The compression attire utilized for the study were compression socks that went from the ankle to the bottom of the knee. The compression attire in each of the 3 runs was either not worn at all, worn during the run (25mmHg pressure) or worn after the run (20mmHg pressure). Biomarkers and perceived soreness were assessed 1-hour before warm up and 1, 24 and 48-hours after completion of the run. This study like many current studies utilized magnitude based statistics that were based on quantitative chances of higher or lower difference. Therefore, presence of significant differences was qualitatively assessed as follows: <1%, almost certainly not; 1% to 5%, very unlikely; 5% to 25%, unlikely; 25% to 75%, possible; 75% to 95%, likely; 95% to 99%, very likely; >99%, almost certain. Results indicated it was likely that wearing compression attire during the run reduced perceived muscle soreness 1 and 24 hours afterwards compared to wearing the attire afterwards or not at all. There were no clear differences found between all conditions at 48-hours after the run. Unfortunately, no significant differences could be found with biomarkers across all conditions. These results demonstrate that the use of compression attire that covers the lower limb may help reduce muscle soreness in the acute setting (1-24-hours after exercise). We again see that the subjects perceived muscle soreness to be reduced when compression attire was utilized however this was not substantiated by biomarkers (CK and IL-6). The authors note the lack of difference in biomarkers is consistent with previously published data and that these biomarkers have large ranges of variability from person to person, making it difficult to detect differences. They also note the runners exercised at a moderate intensity and perhaps a higher intensity could elicit a greater difference in muscle damage displayed by the tested biomarkers. It would be interesting to see if compression attire that covered the entire leg would make a difference in perceived soreness and biomarkers? Additionally, if this was not a highly trained group of runners perhaps a difference in biomarkers would have been found? Regardless of what the biomarkers showed the runners felt less sore after exercise when compression attire was worn during the run. Perception alone is more important than biomarkers as most rely on feeling and not a blood sample to determine if they will exercise. More research will be necessary to determine if compression attire can cause a physiological difference in biomarkers of muscle damage. What do you think about the findings from this study? Would you use compression attire to help reduce muscle soreness? Let us know by leaving any questions or remarks in the comments section!


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