There’s a good chance that you’ve heard of, or maybe even wear, compression calf sleeves. They make sense for runners – they take care of your legs during and after runs. But have you ever thought about wearing compression arm sleeves?
This article will tell you everything that you need to know about them, including why you might consider wearing them. We’ll start by briefly describing them, and then discuss the benefits of wearing them.
What Are Compression Arm Sleeves?
As the name implies, compression arm sleeves are tubes of techy fabric that give your arms a gentle, therapeutic squeeze. If you have seen or wore calf sleeves before or compression socks, they look just like that except they are on your arms.
They became popular in 2001 after Allen Iverson, an N.B.A. player, wore a compression stockinette to deal with an elbow that had developed bursitis. He later got surgery for the injury, but his trainer gave him a temporary solution with the arm sleeve.
Iverson scored a lot of points that night, and he would wear compression arm sleeves throughout the rest of his basketball career. Since then, they have become extremely popular, and Iverson’s “shooter sleeve” can be found on athletes in a wide variety of sports.
Benefits of Wearing Compression Arm Sleeves
Now that you have a brief history of compression arm sleeves and a good idea of what they look like, let’s consider the reasons why you might want to start wearing them.
1. Helps Circulate Blood
Compression gear’s main purpose is to help improve blood circulation, which is critical for athletes. If you’re dealing with an injury, bad blood circulation can lead to inflammation and swelling. A compression sleeve will help to prevent these conditions.
And even if you aren’t injured, it’s always helpful to have good blood circulation throughout a run. You are protecting your muscles from future injuries.
2. Prevents Muscle Soreness
By helping to loosen up your muscles and provide gentle pressure, compression arm sleeves will help to alleviate tightness and soreness in the muscles in your arms.
This can also assist in injury prevention, providing support for a joint or muscle like a bandage or brace would.
3. Aids in Muscle Recovery
Because the sleeves help to improve circulation to your heart by speeding up circulation, you’ll be able to recover more quickly. This is key if you’re dealing with a hard workout and want to bounce back as quickly as possible.
As an example, one study found that wearing compression arm sleeves after working out can help to reduce delayed-onset muscle soreness as well as speed up muscle function in recovery. This confirms several other studies that report how compression garments can assist in recovery.
4. Provides Protection From The Sun
If you tend to run outside in the sun a lot and especially if you tend to burn badly, you might want to start using arm sleeves so you don’t have to worry about missing a spot when you slather on sunscreen.
For example, most sleeves have UPF 50+ built-in so that you can avoid overexposure to the sun on your arms. Compression sleeves are also designed to draw moisture away from your skin, which will help regulate your body temperature.
This means that compression arm sleeves will be especially useful for people who live in hotter climates and want a way to protect themselves from the sun as well as maintain a more regulated body temperature.
5. Protects Arms in Contact Sports
While this isn’t true for running necessarily (unless you accidentally trip and land on the ground), compression arm sleeves are helpful in contact sports because they provide extra padding when you bump into someone.
Additionally, they are a great way to avoid rug burn and skin rash. Volleyball, soccer, and football players spend a lot of time on the ground. Sleeves add a layer of protection against abrasions, especially on field turf. More protection equals fewer cuts and scrapes.
If you are a trail runner, you might also appreciate compression sleeves to avoid uncomfortable scratches from those branches that just jump out at you!
6. Can Be Used for Warmth
Arms warmers are, in a way, distinct from compression sleeves. That being said, compression sleeves can also provide a degree of warmth on cooler days. Although I wear compression calf sleeves throughout the year, I especially wear them in the winter, and it’s not just for the compression. It’s also because they give me an additional layer on my legs, which is helpful when it’s so cold.
Compression arm sleeves work the exact same way. They can give you an additional layer under a long sleeve. Or you can wear them with a short sleeve shirt so that they are easy to remove mid-race once you’ve warmed up.
The big difference is that arms warmers are meant to be stripped off, or at least peeled down to the wrists, if you get too hot. Compression sleeves are meant to be left on for the duration of a run. Otherwise, there’s no compression.
7. Make You Look Cool
This isn’t a fitness-related benefit, but compression arm sleeves might be exactly what you need to get you running on a regular basis. If you feel great in your gear, you’ll want to run! And most running gear is known for giving you the ability to add some style.
Pick bright and bold colors for arm sleeves if you’re feeling flamboyant. Or stay classic with a sleek black set. Pick team colors to match your running mates. Swap sleeves of different colors with a good friend, so you are each running in the same two colors. Or symbolically support a cause: wear blue for the blue mile, pink for breast cancer, rainbows (yusss!) for diversity.
Finally, it can be a way to intimidate competitors. There are verifiable physical benefits, sure. But if you pass someone during a race, your compression gear might give you just enough of a psychological edge.
Even if you’re not exactly sure about wearing compression arm sleeves, it’s worth giving it a try. I was skeptical about compression calf sleeves until I wore them and experienced how much they helped.
There’s a good chance that once you put on a pair of compression arm sleeves, you’ll realize just how useful they are and how much more comfortable your runs are now—both in the summer and the winter!
And you always have the benefit of looking cool and/or supporting a cause that you love by wearing your heart on your sleeve (literally!).