Objective: Despite the modern appeal of wearing compressive garments during physical activities, the literature is lacking in quality data and controversial in the investigations dealing with the pathophysiologic mechanism by which graduated compression stockings (GCS) affect the calf pump activation in healthy individuals. The aim of the investigation was to provide insight into the clinical effects of GCS use during a standardized walking exercise.
Methods: Twenty physically active healthy volunteers (mean age, 34 ± 5 years; body mass index, 22 ± 2 kg/m2) underwent lower limb ultrasound scanning to exclude vascular impairment. All individuals performed continuous aerobic exercise, walking for 30 minutes on a treadmill, under cardiac monitoring, at 70% of individual estimated maximal heart rate according to the Tanaka equation. The study population performed the standardized walk without GCS (baseline) and at 1 week performed the same standardized walk wearing knee-length 20 to 30 mm Hg GCS (compression). All individuals underwent a lower limb volume assessment by truncated cone formula before and after the walk and a perceived exertion assessment by means of the validated Borg scale at the end of the exercise protocol.
Results: All individuals had normal venous and arterial ultrasound examination findings. No significant postural defects were reported. Both legs were assessed in all 20 individuals for a total of 40 cases with and 40 cases without GCS. In the baseline group, the median (interquartile range) lower limb volume changed from 2496 (770) mL before exercise to 2512 (805) mL (P = .2597) after exercise. The compression group reported a significant lower limb volume change from 2466 (670) mL before exercise to 2276 (567) mL (P = .0001) after exercise. Mean perceived exertion was 13 (11) and 11 (1) in the baseline and compression groups, respectively (P = .0001). The interface pressure exerted by the GCS was 24 (2) mm Hg. No complaints in terms of discomfort were reported after use of GCS.
Conclusions: In healthy individuals, GCS (24  mm Hg) use during a continuous standardized walk of 30 minutes is associated with a significant decrease in lower limb volume and a decrease in perceived exertion. The mechanism by which GCS impart their effect during physical activity may involve improved muscle pump function and reductions in inflammatory pathways. Further study will need to validate the mechanisms of the function of GCS used during physical exercise.
Keywords: Aerobic exercise; Compression; Exertion; Stockings; Volume.
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