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Effects of compression garments on balance

by P. Debraux | 30 April

compression, garments, balance, control, sport, BV Sport, proprioception

The somatosensory system is one of the main sensory systems in the human body. Its role is essential in our physiological and psychological development. It strongly contributes to the control of balance by providing indications on body motions thanks to the information gathering obtained from the skin, muscles, tendons, joints, fascia, viscera, etc. Connective tissue is of particular importance as it binds all body parts together into a structure that allows the transmission and distribution of mechanical forces throughout the human body. This facilitates the collect of various information necessary for the human body to orient and balance.

Studies have shown that compression garments, by creating tension / compression on certain body parts, can improve the perception of somatosensory information and positively influence balance control by reducing swaying of the body in standing up position. However, according to the various studies carried out on this topic, the beneficial effects on the balance of compression garments are more pronounced in people with sensory deficits (elderly people, injured people) or, conversely, increased acuity, like high-level athletes, for example. While in healthy and active people, compression garments would have no effect on balance. However, it has been shown that there is great variability in the response to cutaneous stimuli in humans. Considering that most studies use statistical approaches based on averages rather than on a case-by-case basis, could compression garments have an impact on balance in healthy people ?

The Study

To answer this question, a team of French researchers wanted to study the impact on the control of the balance of compression sleeves (calves) in young, healthy and active people. And for that, these researchers decided to analyze the inter-individual differences thanks to an analysis by cluster which allows to regroup the participants in subgroups based on common characteristics.

For this protocol, 13 active people were recruited. The experiment consisted of two tasks: standing on one foot (non-dominant leg), eyes closed, on a stable surface, and the same position on an unstable surface (Balance Board, Sissel). These two tasks were carried out with compression sleeves for the calves (Booster, BV Sport) and without. In both situations, a force platform made it possible to measure the displacement of the body's center of pressure (the projection of our center of gravity).

Results & Analyzes

The main results of this study showed that there is indeed a great variability in the balance control between participants. The people who had the least control over their body sway in the non-compression garment condition benefited the most from compression sleeves. When the statistical analysis was performed on the overall mean of the results obtained under the two conditions, the compression sleeves made no difference for the balance control.

Numerous studies have suggested that individuals who initially have more pronounced body sway are people with moderate sensory-motor deficits and thus benefit much more from a tactile stimulus which acts with skin sensory receptors. However, the authors of this study highlight the fact that the ability to benefit from a compression garment would also depend on how a person uses certain somatosensory elements to control their balance. According to some researchers, the skin stimuli caused by compression garments would benefit much more people who rely more on gravito-inertial information (dependent on gravity) than on proprioceptive information (dependent on support). Because people who use a gravity-dependent strategy adopt a more exploratory postural behavior by increasing the body's sway to obtain vestibular information (dependent on inertia and gravity).

Finally, compression garments do not improve somatosensory ability per se but rather act as affordances. That is, they would make it possible for the wearer to more easily retrieve information related to his swaying thanks to the skin mechano-receptors located under the compression sleeves. This would explain why people who rely on gravity-sensory informations, and who therefore make more movement to balance themselves, have more benefit than others from wearing these sleeves.

Practical Applications

This study is interesting because it shows that among healthy and physically active individuals, there are marked differences in terms of balance control. Only people who display significant postural sway to balance themselves will benefit from wearing compression sleeves for balance control. Knowing that poor balance control is one of the risk factors for sports injuries, wearing compression garments could be one of the non-invasive prevention solutions.


  1. Baige K, Noé F, Bru N and Paillard T. Effects of compression garments on balance control in young healthy active subjects : A hierarchical cluster analysis. Frontiers 14, 2020.

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