Home > Injury Prevention, Recovery & Regeneration > Lower limb compression improves recovery following intense bouts of exercise

Lower limb compression improves recovery following intense bouts of exercise

Jakeman, J. R., C. Byrne, et al. Lower limb compression garment improves recovery from exercise-induced muscle damage in young, active females. European Journal of Applied Physiology 109(6): 1137-1144, 2010.

PMID: 20376479

RATIONALE & PURPOSE: High intensity physical activity is associated with a significant physiological demand placed on the body’s muscle tissue. Today’s competitive climate surrounding athletics is characterized by a high frequency of competition and training sessions that commonly occur “back-to-back” in a short time frame, commonly not permitting time for adequate rest and recovery. The level of play and performance that is represented by today’s athlete commonly requires a large volume of high-intensity physical activity, increasing demand on the body’s musculature, potentially leading to exercise-induced muscle damage (EIMD). EIMD is associated with impaired muscle function, delayed-onset muscle damage, decreased self-paced exercise performance, and increased perceived exertion during exercise. It is intuitive the above signs and symptoms of EIMD may contribute to performance decrements for the athlete. It is thus imperative that efficacious, evidence-based clinical practices targeted at minimizing the effects of EIMD be deployed by sports medicine professionals to facilitate recovery after strenuous physical activity with a potential benefit of improving athletic performance and decreasing injury risk. The purpose of this study was to examine the efficacy of the use of lower limb compression on recovery from EIMD symptoms, and to determine if the use of compression clothing after high-intensity exercise affects subsequent athletic performance.

OVERVIEW OF RESEARCH METHODS: Seventeen (n=17) physically active females participated in this study. Participants were randomized to a treatment (n=8) and passive recovery (n=9) group. Individuals in the treatment group used lower limb compression tights for 12 hours immediately following a bout of damaging plyometric exercise (10 x 10 repetitions of plyometric drop jumps from 0.6 m box). Athletic performance measures (squat jump height, counter-movement vertical jump height, isokinetic knee extensor strength), perceived soreness (visual analogue scale), and muscle damage (creatine kinase activity) were collected as markers of EIMD following the damaging exercise. EIMD indicators were collected prior to and 1, 24, 48, 72, and 96 hours post-exercise. Indicators of EIMD were compared between the treatment and passive recovery groups.

KEY FINDINGS:

Perceived Muscle Soreness:  Individuals using the compression clothing experienced decreased soreness compared to the individuals in the passive recovery group. Individuals using the compression clothing reported less soreness at 1, 24, 48, and 72 hours after damaging exercise.

Squat Jump Height:  The compression-clothing group experienced less of a decrement in squat jump performance compared to the passive recovery group. A less severe performance decrement was observed at 24, 48, 72, and 96 hours following damaging exercise.

Countermovement Jump Height:  At the 48 hour mark the compression clothing group experienced less of a decrement in countermovement vertical jump performance compared to the passive recovery group. There was no significant difference in countermovement vertical jump performance between the treatment and passive recovery group at all other time points.

Isokinetic Muscle Strength:  The compression-clothing group experienced less of a decrement in absolute peak muscle torque compared to the passive recovery group. Individuals using the compression clothing were observed to have a less severe decrease in peak muscle torque at 24, 48, 72, and 96 hours after damaging exercise.

Creatine Kinase Activity:  There was no difference in creatine kinase activity between groups. Both groups were observed to have increased creatine kinase activity 1 and 24 hours following damaging exercise.

CLINICAL IMPLICATIONS:

The results of this study provide a basis for using compression clothing following intense levels of physical activity in athletic females. The findings suggest that the use of compression clothing immediately following potentially damaging exercise may decrease the symptoms of EIMD including perceived muscle soreness, muscle strength, and functional performance (as assessed by the vertical jumping activity). It should be noted that the exact mechanism by which the compression clothing decreases the severity of the symptoms of EIMD is not fully understood, however a significant difference in the severity of objective performance decrement (% of baseline) and subjective symptom levels is evident, favoring the use of compression clothing. Furthermore the performance variables demonstrated the greatest group differences at the 48 hour mark, a time frame that commonly separates bouts of competition in both amateur (and possibly more commonly) in professional sports such as basketball, hockey, soccer, and tennis. The results of this study provide substantial evidence that there are benefits of using compression clothing to facilitate recovery after intense physical activity, improving both objective performance measures and reported symptoms of EIMD.

As a result, clinicians should consider the use of compression clothing as a treatment modality to facilitate recovery after intense physical activity that is associated with EIMD. Compression clothing worn after bouts of intense physical activity may minimize performance decrements observed between successive competitions or training sessions. Additionally, the effect of compression on reduction in perceived soreness may promote optimal movement strategies that may otherwise be compromised due to discomfort or decreased muscle function. Promoting optimal movement is likely associated with the observed benefits in performance and may also decrease the risk of injury for an athlete participating in competition and/or training sessions that fall within a acute period. The exact physiological mechanisms by which compression minimizes performance decrements and perceived levels of soreness following intense exercise are not fully understood, and more research in this area is warranted. However, the results of this study suggest compression clothing worn after intense physical activity enhances recovery after potentially damaging exercise, and should be considered by sports medicine professionals as a viable treatment modality to minimize performance decrements and injury risk in athletes participating in successive sessions of physical activity in which optimal athletic performance is favored.

Written by: Barnett Frank, MA, ATC

Approved by: Darin A. Padua, PhD, ATC

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