What Does Compression Do? (Part 2)

I’ve seen them. You’ve seen them too and had the same thought- what are those goofy looking socks that runners are wearing these days, and what does that guy know that I don’t? Maybe you are that guy and can tell us all, in which case I’ll take a break from writing this week.

 

Continuing our theme from the last fun-filled and thrills-a-minute blog, we are addressing forms of compression socks. Last time we discussed those that are worn out of necessity, now we can discuss those worn as a performance enhancement (settle down, young stallion, these are socks). It seems that compression socks are becoming increasingly more popular in running. I don’t have any hard facts to back that up, I am just noticing it more. And I wonder as well what the research has to say about the efficacy of these devices.

 

Well as it turns out, the science is not entirely supportive, no pun intended. It is clear that the socks aid in venous return, that is, the return of the blood in the veins back to the heart, and they do compress the muscles. And intuitively it would seem there is a benefit to those actions. However, multiple research studies have failed to demonstrate a real benefit or competitive advantage to those who wear compression stockings while running. Like many other devices and remedies that seem to make intuitive sense, after real objective study the benefits just may not be as apparent as we would imagine.

 

And where does that leave us? The guys and gals in the goofy stockings may adamantly insist that there are real benefits to wearing compression stockings while running. And I generally don’t doubt that. Sometimes there are intangible benefits to remedies that can’t be measured or perceived in a scientific study. For example, I know foot orthotics are beneficial for my patients and can help heal a wide variety of foot ailments, although studies have failed to demonstrate a real long term benefit. If the remedy or device works, and it is not harmful or a hindrance to real proven therapies, then the upside is clear. And if it’s all a placebo- is that so bad?

 

So my dear NYC podiatry patients, if you are running in compression stockings and perceive a benefit, please continue with my blessing. Just do me a favor and run over there, farther away from me, I have an image to maintain.

 

See you in the office.

 

Ernest Isaacson