A compression garment is a piece of support clothing most commonly used by people who have recently undergone some type of surgical procedure. Using a compression garment may help reduce swelling by increasing blood circulation throughout the body and preventing the build up of potentially harmful fluids around the surgical site. There are compression garments for nearly every type of surgical procedure, including liposuction, arm lifts, breast reduction, and abdominoplasty.
Immediately after surgery, first-stage compression garments are worn 24 hours a day to reduce swelling. After the initial checkup, doctors may recommend that patients move down to second-stage garments like bicycle shorts and camisoles. A second-stage compression garment offers less compression and is less noticeable, often being completely concealed under regular clothing. Depending on the surgical procedure performed, a second-stage compression garment may need to be worn anywhere from a few weeks to a few months after surgery.
Another reason doctors may prescribe a compression garment is to help patients who have undergone certain surgeries, namely liposuction and abdominoplasty, see results faster. Long-term changes from these surgeries can take months to manifest, and sometimes wearing a compression garment, like body shapers, can help patients see artificial results immediately. A high-compression body shaper is intended to help the skin mold to its new shape immediately following surgery, which some doctors believe may reduce overall recovery time.
People who have not recently undergone surgery may also find some benefits in using compression garments. Those with disorders that reduce blood circulation, like diabetes, are among the biggest users of compression garments for non-surgical reasons. Workers who stand on their feet for long hours during the day and professional athletes often purchase compression socks or pantyhose to provide relief to their lower legs and feet. In addition, people who travel frequently sometimes use compression stockings on flights to reduce their risk of developing deep vein thrombosis.
Most compression garments fall under either first-stage or second-stage labels, but compression hosiery is rated by degree. This degree measurement is taken at the ankle and is determined by how much pressure is needed to raise a single level of mercury (Hg) over a distance measured by millimeters (mm), which results in a reading of mmHg. For most people using compression garments for recreational purposes, hosiery with a compression of 12 to 18 mmHg will suffice and will be readily available over the counter. Anything higher than that is usually reserved for post-surgery patients or individuals with specific ailments, and requires a doctor's prescription.