Normatec and Compression Therapy – Are There Benefits For Athletes?

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Recovery is as important as training, and compression therapy is one of the best recovery tools you can invest in. You may be familiar with compression gear like tights, socks, and sleeves.

But those are just the beginning—more advanced forms of compression therapy are out there, like NormaTec.

There are many benefits for athletes, so let’s dive into the details to decide if it’s something you should use.

What Is Compression Therapy?

Compression therapy uses controlled pressure to improve the circulation of blood and lymphatic fluid, as well as to reduce swelling by discouraging fluid build-up.

You can find compression garments in many forms. Compression gear like sleeves and socks are easy to find in running, sports, and drug stores. The graduated compression they offer helps to stimulate circulation.

Bandages and wraps can also be used as compression gear, And then there are pneumatic devices – like Normatech – which are electrical devices that use air to provide stronger compression.

These devices and gear work by compressing the tissues and reducing the diameter of the surface veins, pushing blood into the deeper veins. This prevents blood from pooling in the veins, as well as stopping lymphatic fluid from accumulating.

Using compression can be beneficial for the treatment of various medical conditions, but it can also help athletes recover faster.

Benefits of Compression Therapy for Athletes

For athletes, compression therapy can accelerate recovery and may help you perform better and avoid some of the negative effects that may come after exercise. Here are some benefits athletes can expect to gain when using compression therapy.

Improved Circulation

The light pressure from compression garments stimulates circulation by constricting the veins closer to the surface and sending blood around the body faster.

Increased circulation has many benefits for both health and athletic performance, including sending oxygen and nutrients around the body to the muscles to help them recover faster.

Reduces Swelling and Inflammation

Improved circulation means oxygen and nutrients can reach sore muscles faster, starting the healing process as soon as possible.

But blood isn’t the only thing that gets circulated faster—lymphatic fluid also drains faster, as does water in the tissues. This reduces swelling, especially if paired with elevation.

Relieve Muscle Pain

Increased blood flow removes lactic acid and waste products, while bringing oxygen and nutrients to the tissues that need healing. This, along with reduced swelling, can play a big role in easing muscle pain.

Aids in Flushing Lymphatic Fluids and Lactic Acids

A build-up of lactic acid can contribute to muscle stiffness after exercise. But increased circulation can help to flush out lactic acid much faster, preventing it from building up and causing pain. Flushing out lymphatic fluids also helps to get rid of other toxins much faster.

Speeds Up Recovery

All of the above benefits lead to faster recovery. Your muscles won’t be sore for as long, you won’t be stiff for too long, and your muscles will feel loose, limber, and ready for action sooner.

Improves Athletic Performance

Quicker recovery means your muscles grow faster, which can lead to better athletic performance. Effective recovery doesn’t just ease stiffness—it also repairs the muscle and helps it come back stronger.

The stronger your muscles, the more power, strength, and explosiveness you’ll have. These can significantly improve your athletic performance.

Increase Range Of Motion

Stiff muscles don’t move as easily. Compression eases stiffness by flushing out that lactic acid and bringing in oxygen and nutrients. Looser, warmer muscles allow for a better range of motion so you can continue to run with good form.

Injury Prevention

Compression can be an effective warm-up, as it helps get the blood flowing through the muscles. This is essential for injury prevention, as it keeps the muscles limber and supple. Even if you use it just for recovery, better recovery also equals more effective performance and reduced injury risk thanks to supple muscles.

Introducing Normatec: The Breakthrough Recovery System

NormaTec were the pioneers in compression therapy devices. The design and manufacture “sequential pneumatic compression” devices, for use by physical therapists, doctors, and athletes.

The original NormaTec was designed in 1998 by Dr. Laura Jacobs, a physician and engineer. She started the company in the early 2000s, to cater to people with circulation problems. When she realized the potential for athletes, the company also expanded to create sports-specific devices.

Since then, NormaTec has been the subject of many scientific studies, received multiple awards, and become a firm favorite of many athletes.

When it comes to compression boots in particular, you might see them referred to as NormaTec technology, even if they’re a different brand. The name has become synonymous with the specific technology, and they’re still as popular today as they were when they first came out.

The NormaTec System

NormaTec’s compression system consists of compression garments, a control unit, and tubing that connects them to each other.

Compression Garments

The main NormaTec compression garments are for the legs. They’re thick, zip-up devices that look a little like sleeping bags for your legs. Unzip them, slip your legs inside, and zip them up; they run from foot to thigh.

You can also get arm sleeves, hip attachments, and much smaller garments designed for the calf only. When not inflated, they’re easy to fold up and store away.

Control Unit

This is where the user adjusts things like the pressure and the duration of the session. It regulates the inflation and deflation of the garments to provide compression to certain parts. There’s also an accompanying Hyperice app.

Hose

The tubing, or hose, is what connects the control unit to the compression garments. This enables the flow of air through the garments.

How It Works

The NormaTec is straightforward to use. Simply unzip the compression garments you want to use, and slip your limbs into them, zipping them up again. Make sure your limbs are properly inside the garments, as far as they can go.

Once you’re ready, switch on the control unit. You’ll have to select what compression attachment you’re wearing. Then, choose which zones you want to inflate and the pressure level you want to inflate them to. Set your timer and press start.

The NormaTec device will inflate and deflate according to your instructions, for the time period you’ve set. You can stop it at any time by pressing the power button.

What Makes Normatec Compression Therapy Different?

NormaTec was a huge innovation in the late 1990s, when they were first designed. Here are some of the features that set them apart then and that still set them apart today.

Sequential Compression

NormaTec’s unique sequential compression made them different from the start. The sleeves of the device are inflated and deflated in a particular sequence, mimicking the natural muscular pump movement to promote circulation.

Pulse Massage Pattern

Working with the sequential compression is a patented pulse massage pattern. The pulse pattern gets the blood flowing, makes the experience pleasant, and speeds up recovery.

Design: Lightweight and Comfortable Sleeves

Although their boots look bulky, the NormaTec system is quite lightweight and comfortable. This makes it a more pleasant experience.

Number of Features

NormaTec systems have plenty of built-in features that give them an edge over other systems on the market. These include:

Bluetooth Connectivity

If you have your own set, you can connect via Bluetooth and operate the compression system using your phone for optimal convenience.

Customizable Settings

This isn’t a one-size-fits-all kind of compression device. You can customize your settings to suit you, which means you’re getting the best benefit for your body.

Pre-Programmed Modes

If customizable modes seem intimidating or you’re new to compression therapy, the NormaTec also comes with a number of pre-programmed modes that are a click of a button away.

Boot System vs. Compression Pants and Socks: Which Is Better?

A boot system like NormaTec is more technologically advanced than regular compression gear. You’ll get more effective, more targeted compression that gives you better results in a shorter time. You can also customize your settings to suit you.

On the other hand, compression pants, socks, and other gear are much more affordable and accessible. They’re also easier to use, and you can wear a sleeve or sock while you’re busy doing other things, unlike the NormaTec.

The one that’s best for you depends on your needs and goals.

How Often Should You Use Compression Therapy?

You can use compression therapy after every exercise session, within a few hours of finishing, as long as you don’t overdo it. It’s recommended not to do it multiple times a day, but you can do it multiple times per week.

How Long Should You Sit In Compression Boots?

You only need to use NormaTec compression therapy for 15 to 30 minutes at a time. If you use it for more than 30 minutes, you won’t get any extra benefit, but not allowing your muscles to rest could put you at risk for injury.

Tips for Using Boot Compression Therapy Like NormaTec

Ready to try a compression therapy system like NormaTec? Here are our tips for using them properly.

Start With a Low Pressure Setting

Like anything, start slow and work your way up. Too much pressure can be painful if you aren’t used to it, so start with a low-pressure setting and move up slowly as your legs get more used to it.

Timing Matters

Your usage of the NormaTec device may change depending on your goals. Here’s a quick overview.

Warm-Up

You can use this device to get your legs warmed up before a workout. If you’re using it for warming up, you only need to use it for around 5 minutes to get the best benefits.

Post-Workout Recovery

Within two to three hours of your workout, use the compression device for about 30 minutes in total. You only need to use it once after your workouts.

Combine with Other Recovery Techniques

You may also want to use other recovery techniques like foam rolling, stretching, yoga, Pilates, recovery runs, cross-training, healthy eating, and getting enough sleep. These will complement your use of the compression boots and might help increase their effectiveness.

Consistency is Key

Use your compression leggings after every workout or every other workout. Whatever you choose, stay consistent—building a habit is one of the best ways to see positive results over time.

Monitor Your Progress

It can be handy to monitor how you feel each time you use the compression leggings. This will help you to see if they’re truly helping or not. You might want to write down your observations in a notebook to refer to later.

Listen to Your Body

Suppose you feel pain, terrible discomfort, or fear using the NormaTec compression therapy gear. In that case, it may be a good idea to ease into it gently or choose another form of compression altogether.

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AUTHOR

Ben is an avid road and trail runner, and has completed multiple marathons and ultras. A former running store owner, he now shares his knowledge and experience writing these articles.