Acute effect of wearing compression stockings on lower leg swelling and muscle stiffness in healthy young women

Clin Physiol Funct Imaging. 2018 Jun 3. doi: 10.1111/cpf.12527. Online ahead of print.


Compression stockings are known to be effective in reducing peripheral oedema or leg swelling by increasing tissue pressure and venous blood flow. While previous studies on compression stockings have focused on its prolonged, preventive effect on leg swelling, the aim of this study was to investigate an acute effect of wearing compression stockings on lower leg swelling and muscle stiffness. Twenty healthy women aged 18-23 years participated in the experiment conducted in the evening, in which they wore below-knee graduated compression stockings and rested in a seated position for 30 min. Before and after the application of stockings, maximum calf circumference, volume, extracellular water resistance (RECW ) and muscle stiffness of the right lower leg were determined by tape measure, water displacement volumetry, segmental bioelectrical impedance spectroscopy and ultrasound shear-wave elastography, respectively. The maximum calf circumference and the reciprocal of RECW (an index of extracellular fluid volume) significantly decreased after the application of stockings, whereas the total lower leg volume and the stiffness (shear modulus) of the medial gastrocnemius muscle tended to decrease. These changes, except for that in the medial gastrocnemius muscle stiffness, were opposite to those from morning to evening studied in the subgroup of participants (n = 8). However, partial correlation analysis failed to detect significant associations among these changes. These results suggest that even for a short period of application, compression stockings have some positive effects against lower leg swelling.

Keywords: bioelectrical impedance; extracellular fluid; oedema; ultrasound elastography; volumetry.