One of the benefits of wearing compression gear when you are active or recovering from physical exertion is an increase in venous return to the muscles.
What is venous return?
Venous return is defined as the rate of blood flow back to the heart by the veins. Venous return is essential for optimum cardiac output and overall good circulation.
Venous return is highly dependent on venous pressure, or the pressure that drives the blood back to the heart. Venous pressure is typically higher in the venules (the small veins that collect blood from the even smaller capillaries) measuring in at around 10mmHg, whilst it is lowest at the junction of the right ventricle and the vena cava (0mmHg). This pressure difference is what promotes venous return.
How does compression gear promote venous return?
Compression socks and sleeves apply pressure to the veins not unlike you would when pressing the bottom of a toothpaste tube to move the toothpaste up and out of the tube. By applying pressure like this, overall blood circulation is increased, and the oxygenation of the muscles is improved. Increased venous pressure leads to improved venous return, due to a more marked difference in the pressure in the venules and the pressure in the junction of the right ventricle and vena cava.
When athletes wear compression gear prior to events or workouts, the warm-up exercises they do may be improved. Wearing compression garments during exertion further enhances venous return, and additionally provides protection against muscular vibrations and, consequently, reduced muscle damage as well as delayed muscle fatigue and soreness.
Blood flow is also stimulated when compression clothing is worn after exercise, which – in addition to still stimulating venous return – helps to eliminate toxins more quickly, and prevents secondary muscle damage.
Improved venous return is extremely beneficial to athletes and non-athletes alike. Considering the strain associated with physical exertion, even the non-serious gym-goer may experience tremendous benefits from making compression gear a part of his or her exercise attire.