Can I Wear Calf Compression Sleeves All Day?
by James Lee on May 11, 2022
Compression garments are designed to provide support to the arteries and veins to improve blood flow and increase the transport of oxygen and nutrients throughout the body. The outer wall of the artery will contract when it senses external pressure and causes the inner wall to dilate in response. The internal dilation allows the artery to increase the blood volume being transported through the body.
Arteries are only half of the problem. Veins transport the blood back to the heart when it is reoxygenated and sent back out through the arteries. One-directional valves in the veins open and close to prevent the blood from flowing backward. The compression also decreases the veins' diameter, so the valves' effectiveness increases, speeding up the flow of blood back to the heart.
While the arteries and veins respond differently to pressure, it is important to apply the right amount of compression so both the arteries and veins will receive maximum benefit and produce the desired results. If not enough compression is applied, the benefits will not be maximized whereas too much compression can constrict blood flow and be counterproductive.
Reasons to Wear Calf Compression Sleeves
There are essentially three times where wearing calf compression sleeves is beneficial. These include treating medical conditions, during exercise and when traveling.
1) Medical Conditions
One of the major reasons calf sleeves are worn is to treat or prevent blood clots, including deep vein thrombosis, resulting from poor blood circulation. Blood clots can be deadly if a piece of the clot breaks loose, travels through your bloodstream and becomes lodged in a vein and blocks blood flow, often leading to a pulmonary embolism, stroke or heart attack.
Deep vein thrombosis, or DVT, is a serious medical condition resulting from a blood clot in a vein deep inside the body, usually the legs. Symptoms of DVT include:
• Bluish or purple skin.
• Difficulty breathing or unexplained rapid breathing.
• Persistent leg cramps in one or both legs.
• Persistent loss of circulation in one or both legs.
• Swollen, red, warm or hard veins in a localized area.
• Weak or irregular pulse.
The increased blood flow can also help to alleviate pain from conditions such as leg and ankle sprains and strains as well as arthritis.
Compression sleeves are often worn during or after exercise as part of the recovery process or increase athletic performance. The higher the blood oxygen content is, the better the muscles are able to operate. However, wearing compression calf sleeves does more than increase circulation. During exercise, the constant muscle contractions cause the muscles to vibrate and this causes the muscles to fatigue. Wearing compression calf sleeves while running not only provides support to your muscles, it decreases the amount of muscular vibration. This reduces the muscle fatigue experienced during exercise and thereby improves athletic endurance. Additionally, lactic acid is a by-product of anaerobic exercise that results in the body breaking down carbohydrates for energy. This can cause oxygen levels to drop during periods of intense exercise, such as sprinting.
Blood clots and DVT are often seen in people who sit immobile for long periods, such as when traveling on a plane. This is especially true for people with a slower resting heart rate, like endurance athletes, whose circulation is lower than average. This means blood will stay in the legs longer and is much more prone to clotting when sitting for prolonged periods. Over 80 percent of air-travel thrombosis victims are endurance types, like marathon runners.
When Not to Wear Compression Sleeves
Calf compression sleeves should not be worn to treat varicose veins or while sleeping, unless so directed by a healthcare professional. A phlebologist, a doctor who specializes in vein and lymphatic diseases, should be consulted if your case is severe enough to make you feel you need to wear the sleeves to bed.
Unless your condition is severe, calf compression sleeves should not be worn while sleeping. This is because the legs are in a neutral position while laying down and the flow of blood is already normalized as it does not have to fight gravity to get back to the heart. Here the compression sleeves will place too much compression on the arteries and veins and can cut off your circulation. Likewise, too much compression can exacerbate varicose veins. This condition calls for a lighter amount of compressions, such as compression socks or hosiery.
Change Compression Sleeves Daily
Your calf compression sleeves should be changed or laundered daily. While healthcare professionals recommend wearing compression sleeves daily to receive the maximum benefits, the sleeves must also be changed or washed daily for proper personal hygiene and to extend the life of the garment. This not only gets rid of any bacteria that has built up on the skin and garments, but body salts and acids will also damage the elasticity of the sleeve, so it will be less effective. Still, over time sleeves wear out from being stretched all day, so it is recommended you replace the compression sleeves every four to six months.
Compression sleeves are safe to wear all day if you follow your doctor’s advice. Most of the negative issues come from not wearing the sleeves correctly and wearing compression calf sleeves incorrectly can lead to larger circulatory issues, skin conditions and infections. If over-the-counter sleeves don’t seem to help, consult your physician to see if you may need medical-grade compression sleeves.