Debunking Myths Around Pneumatic Compression


ankle sports injury bandage compress

Most athletes are used to sustaining minor injuries, and even non-athletes know to use traditional RICE (rest, ice, compression, elevation) treatment for a sprain or strain. What many people with injuries do not realize is that you can take this treatment one step further with a pneumatic compression device.

If you want to heal faster after an injury, taking a proactive approach will help you return to regular activity more quickly. RICE therapy is effective, but modern technology offers better methods for accelerating injury recovery. Intermittent Pneumatic compression devices deliver air through anatomically designed, circumferential wraps to provide consistent pressure to the areas surrounding an injury.   

Common Objections to Compression Therapy

If you’re uncertain whether compression therapy is right for you, these common objections might sound familiar:

Compression therapy can cause side effects.

While it’s true that static compression can lead to unwanted side effects such as numbness in extremities caused by too much constriction and a decrease in blood flow, active compression allows you to control how much pressure is applied and for how long. Because the pressure is intermittent, the flow of blood and other fluids is actually increased. This generally means no uncomfortable swelling, tingling, or numbness.

Compression therapy is not effective.

When static compression is used and not enough pressure is applied, the positive effects may be minimal. This can happen when elastic bandages or compression sleeves and stockings become stretched out. Many patients also find that the compression level required decreases as swelling decreases, and it is difficult to adjust the pressure accordingly. Fortunately, this problem is solved with pneumatic compression devices that come with adjustable wraps. As swelling decreases, you can adjust the tightness of the wrap and/or increase the pressure level using the device’s settings.

Pneumatic compression devices are expensive.

It’s true that purchasing a pneumatic compression device is more costly than elastic bandages and compression sleeves. However, you don’t actually need to buy a device to use it. With a prescription from your healthcare provider, you can use pneumatic compression in a physical therapy office or rent a unit for home use.

Static compression is good enough.

You might have a good supply of elastic ankle braces and compression sleeves on hand for your most frequent injuries, but that doesn’t mean you are getting the best possible treatment. If a quick recovery is important to you, static compression is not the best possible method.

The Benefits of Using a Pneumatic Compression Device

Active compression offers several benefits over static compression, including:

Delivery of even pressure

Active compression devices use air to provide even pressure around the entire injury site. In contrast, static compression delivers pressure primarily to the area that is swollen, leaving room for edema to spread and swelling to worsen.  

Better reduction of swelling

Even pressure around the entire area reduces the amount of space available for swelling. The “squeeze and release” action helps pump edema away from the injury site to further reduce swelling after an injury, which can help facilitate healing, decrease discomfort, and improve range of motion so you can better perform physical therapy exercises.

Faster healing

Active compression helps bring oxygenated blood and nutrients to the damaged tissues to enhance the healing process. When combined with cold therapy to slow down cellular metabolism, active compression can help accelerate your recovery time. If you would like to learn more about how a pneumatic compression device can help you recover more quickly from injuries, download our free guide, Cryotherapy vs. Contrast Therapy, today.
Download the Comparison Guide of Rehab Cold and Compression Systems