Leg Compression for Athletes Recovery

Athletes who undergo rigorous training often cause damage to their muscles and joints in which impacts further training and success. This damage can cause exercise-induced inflammation, repetitive stress and trauma to the muscles. Symptoms include soreness, swelling, and tenderness, in part secondary to local increased lactic acid resulting in decreased range of motion. Therefore, quick recovery is crucial for athletes to regain and strive for optimal performance in their sport. For athletes striving for optimal recovery and performance, mechanical compression has gained popularity, initially in the 2010 Olympics. Several research papers have shown usage of intermittent pneumatic compression may benefit recovery in athletes.

Physiology and Mechanism of Action synergy-3

Post exercise, the venous return is significantly reduced thus allowing for the build up of carbon dioxide, lactic acid and metabolic waste. The goal of compression is to massage and squeeze your muscles intermittently for a period of time. Research has shown this can decrease swelling and pain, enhance lymphatic return, and increase blood flow. This restore strength and endurance 10 times faster compared to rest alone. Compression is used to help flush out the lactic acid that can of build up after intense training. The use of intermittent pneumatic compression can help promote healing of the tissues by reabsorption of interstitial tissue and reducing metabolic waste. Proper recovery following exercise is important to repair the transitory and long- term impairments created by the stress of training and competition. Following rehydration, correcting the metabolic disturbances and restoring glycogen stores are paramount for recovery of exhaustive exercise. Theoretically, pneumatic compression can reduce the space available for swelling, hemorrhage and hematoma formation as well as providing mechanical support.


There are three primary treatment options available using compression. A typical treatment lasts no longer than 15-20 minutes.

  1. Pre-workout to benefit in warm up and promote blood flow
  2. Post-workout used to speed up muscle recovery, decrease muscle fatigue and stiffness
  3. Post rehab or injury to reduce edema and stiffness

Using this technique can speed recovery and relieve muscle soreness in a shorter period of time. Although research is limited in this field, the preliminary studies indicate this technique may help improve athlete’s ability to restore strength and endurance faster than rest. If you are interested in using lower extremity pneumatic compression pre or post-race, check out our newly opened Synergy Recovery Room. final-logo500pxYou may also visit our Recovery Room website by clicking on the logo to see other benefits of compression therapy and other services we offer to help take your training to the next level!


-Stephanie Kurica, SPT

Student Physical Therapist

Synergy Manual Physical Therapy – South