What Are Compression Sleeves & How to Use Them Effectively

Compression sleeves are a revolutionary invention in the fitness and apparel industry. Mostly used for therapeutic and medical purposes, they are also worn by athletes to gain a certain advantage while performing impulsive and high-energy moves. Advances in the textile and fabric technology have resulted in the integration of different kinds of fibers to create compression sleeves used for arms, legs and thighs.

What Classifies As A Compression Sleeve?

A compression sleeve is a robust and flexible fabric that is shaped like a stocking or a sleeve but has a much tighter fit. This is due to the special design of the fabric and the fact that it is a blend of several different polymer compounds, woven into a single cloth to provide biomechanical advantages and easier movement and support.

Types of Compression Sleeves

Knee High

These refer to the compression sleeves that are worn over the calf that come mostly up to knee high level. Compression Sleeves like these are mostly used by runners and athletes, focused on providing strength to the calf muscles and avoid injuries.

Thigh High

Thigh-high compression sleeves usually start from the calf coming right up to the mid-thigh or the upper thigh. These mostly helps in holding together the muscles and the framework of the knees, specifically in arthritis patients or those who participate in sports like heavy lifting that put too much pressure on the knees.

Women use other thigh high compression sleeves also known as compression stockings after a sclerotherapy procedure in order to remove varicose veins. The stockings are worn for weeks after the procedure in order to keep varicose veins from reforming.

Also read: 5 Best Compression Sleeves for Your Thighs

Elbow / Arm Compression Sleeves

These compression sleeves are mostly used by baseball players and sometimes even soccer players. The sleeves cover major muscle groups of the arm and provide proper circulation for the forearms as well as biceps and triceps when indulging in major elbow movements and extensions.

Materials Used And The Differences Between Them

What Are Compression Sleeves & How to Use Them Effectively

Compression Sleeves are supposed to hug the body tightly where normal fabrics like cotton would not suffice. There are special groups of polymer fabrics that are manufactured to provide the flexibility and tenacity and also sturdiness.


Spandex has the capability to expand up to approximately 500% of its original resting size and return to its original size after being used and stretched to its ultimate limit. Spandex is usually never used alone when it comes to making compression sleeves. This is because it holds in moisture for the entire period that it is worn. Therefore, it is used when integrated with more breathable fabrics that are considered better for the skin.


Nylon is used in most sportswear. However, in the case of compression fabrics, it is mixed in with other compression textiles like spandex to offer an extra element of sturdiness, support and breathability. Nylon is a popular fabric identified with its composite form with spandex, which is 80% nylon and 20% spandex. This combination works wonders for most brands of compression sleeves.


Microfiber is used more than nylon in cases when more compression is required. Microfiber compression sleeves are used mostly by marathon runners to provide long lasting compression. Its only downside is that it is bulkier than nylon and is not so easy to conceal under regular clothing.

When Should Compression Sleeves Be Worn

For Medical Purposes

As mentioned earlier, compression sleeves are used extensively in the treatment of varicose veins, which is done through a procedure called sclerotherapy. They are also used by people who have arthritis and have difficulty moving their knee and elbow joints.
The stability and compression factor that the sleeves offer is magnificent in the treatment of physically injured joints and muscles. This is because they increase blood circulation throughout the affected area. Make sure you get professional advice from you GP before relying on them as a form of recovery.

Read more: 5 Compression Sleeves For Shin Splints

For Sports

Compression sleeves are widely used by athletes and weightlifters as they provide them with the boost and stability required while playing high-energy and physically taxing sports.

These sleeves not only help in giving you sturdy movements but also protect you from cuts and bruises. Those of different strengths and tenacities provide variable degrees of sturdiness and flexibility. Compression sleeves like these calf sleeves are made of polyamide and provide incredible support and help avert micro trauma in the calf muscles while doing high-intensive workouts like weighted squats and cross fit training.

What Are Compression Sleeves & How to Use Them Effectively

Compression sleeves are ingrained with specific textile fibers that can avoid the diffusion of heat through your skin, raising your body temperature. A rise in body temperature is associated with an increase in body temperature. There are compression sleeves that have a quick-dry technology, which allows moisture to pass through from the skin right into the atmosphere, without holding it in for a long time.

Read more: 5 Best Compression Socks for Edema and Leg Swelling

Muscle soreness is one of the most important factors in competitive sports that makes rigorous practice very difficult. When there is muscle soreness, it becomes difficult to run faster, lift heavier, or even reach out to your full range of movement. Compression sleeves hold muscles together and avoid rampant contraction and relaxation of muscles in order to have a stable movement. Less soreness after a workout results in faster recovery of muscles. This is because the deoxygenated blood is circulated back to the heart at a faster rate, aiding speedy recovery of muscles.

How To Use Compression Sleeves The Right Way

Compression sleeves worn on the arm should be worn carefully, as the fabric tends to rupture if they are worn incorrectly. These sleeves need to be worn with the double stitched side on the inner side of the arm, and not outside. This allows the compression to act in an inward direction.

For sleeves worn on legs, ensure you turn the compression sleeves inside out and put your foot into the narrower side of the sleeve, tape side out. Once you get it up above your heel and below your shin, turn the tape side in and tuck it into the sleeve. Now start rolling the rest of the fabric over your leg, covering your shin and slowly your knee, all the way up to the thigh. Make sure you do this slowly to avoid creases, bubbles or unnecessary folds.

Closing Words

Compression sleeves are much more than just a new stylish fashion trend and have many benefits when used the right way. It is important that they are used wisely by following the instructions correctly. Their use should be determined by the sensitivity of your skin and the fabric material needs to be chosen accordingly.

Matt Rollans

Matt Rollans

Matt has been doing Crossfit since 2015and is the founder of Rxdsleeves.com. He has competed in multiple competitions throughout his community. He has made it his mission to provide the best, high quality and honest reviews of crossfit products out there on the market.
Matts PRs can be found on the about page http://www.rxdsleeves.com/about/
Matt Rollans