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Do Those Compression Garments on TV Really Work?

Hey!  I hope you’re having a great day!

According to a multi year Mayo Clinic study, right now 57.5% of doctor visits in America are made in part because of a musculoskeletal problem, making it the most common health ailment in America.

This is why you will see on TV many commercials for products touted as being a “magic bullet” solution for these problems.  The newest series of them features active and retired professional athletes touting the benefits of compression sleeves like Copper Fit and others.

When I first started watching these commercials, I was immediately very skeptical.  One “user” who was likely a paid actor said “before Copper Fit I couldn’t pick up a gallon of milk and within a couple days I was 100% better…it’s like winning the lottery.”  REALLY??

So after seeing another commercial this morning I decided to go to a Health Science University Library’s research database and see what, if any peer reviewed studies have been done on the efficacy of products like this. What I found was not terribly surprising.

In terms of any known reduction of pain or swelling, the studies I read only demonstrated that  this occurred when the pain was related to delayed onset muscle soreness or DOMS, which is what many of us get in our muscles if we work out harder than we are used to or we do repetitive activities that are different than our norm.  DOMS typically goes away in a few days any way and is very different from joint pain or a chronic inflammatory condition.

Looking at the studies that were cited on the Copper Fit website reinforced this.  I guess the lawyers for Copper Fit must have determined that because there was a reduction of DOMS in clinical trials, it would be ok to word the commercial scripts to make it appear that it reduced musculoskeletal pain of any kind.

I find this type of advertising very disturbing.  Not only because it is deceptive to make someone believe that the product is a magic bullet solution but to also make them believe that serious problems in the musculoskeletal system should be easy things to “fix” without any work or change in behavior.  Studying the musculoskeletal system intensely for 10 years and working with hundreds and hundreds of people to overcome these problems and maintain musculoskeletal health over time has told me that this is simply not true.  It takes a lot of work to overcome these problems AND a lot of work to maintain the changes after the problem gets resolved.

One thing that is worth pointing out though is that I also read a few studies that found that the effects of knee compression garments did in fact improve balance in most subjects.  This was a pretty consistent finding that was theorized to be from greater joint awareness and increased stability.   If this is something you’d find beneficial I’d suggest trying them out.

Have a great day!

Yours in truth,

Chris

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