Leg Compression Machine: What Are They, The Benefits & Should You Get One?

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My first experience with leg compression machines was in Miami, Florida.

I had just had major surgery (elective), and since I was going to be in the hospital bed for awhile they decided to connect me to their leg compression machine.

The leg compression machine they had in the hospital was pretty high-tech and felt great. It got me through some nights that’s for sure.

What are leg compression machines? They’re are devices that use pressure on the lower limbs to boost blood circulation and keep lymph flowing through the body. Consistent blood flow aids in the relaxation of muscles, which is particularly useful for people who suffer from mobility issues or recovering from other medical conditions. The machines help the lymph flow drains the toxins and metabolic wastes from the body, therefore reducing the risks of developing chronic diseases.


What Are These Leg Air Compression Massagers?

A leg air compression massager is a device that you put your legs into which can help improve the blood circulation in your legs. the increased blood flow would help to speed up the healing process post-injury.

It also serves as therapy to ease muscle soreness after a workout or training session.

Leg compression sleeves are usual staples in physical therapy sessions and hospitals.

Home use versions are now available on the market.

These home versions would comprise of a pair of leg and foot cuffs, thigh cuffs, the motor, hose to connect the motor and the cuffs, and a controller.

The compression machine can be used on the legs, the thighs, the arms, even the waist.

A hose will connect the cuffs to the machine which uses air compression to press and massage the legs, calves, and thighs (or the body part that it’s attached to) to stimulate blood flow, drain fluid, and ease fatigue from the lower extremities.


Leg Compression Machine Benefits

A good rub down or massage session is a great way to recover from a day’s physically taxing demands.

Unfortunately, a massage isn’t always an option.

It could be a time or budget constraint and this is where using a leg compression machine can help.

Here’s a list of the advantages of using a leg compression machine.

  • It improves the blood circulation in your legs lessening the heaviness and achy sensations after a long day. Better blood circulation brings relief and speeds up healing injuries for those who are recovering from muscle soreness, trauma, surgery, and daily wear and tear.
  • It keeps lymph flow consistently circulating. This keeps lymph from accumulating and lymphedema from building up. The body is kept in prime condition when toxins and metabolic wastes are consistently eliminated through lymph flow.
  • Enjoy relaxation and comfort from your pains and aches. The relief brought to users helps to manage health conditions which let people live more productive lives, Being able to manage your illness from home lowers the stress on the patient and on their caregiver.
  • It helps to decrease swelling from edema. Reducing the fluid accumulated in the feet and the body will increase your mobility and protect your muscles, connective tissue, and veins from further damage.
  • It tones the skin by stimulating the metabolism of fat cells, breaking down cellulite, reinforcing connective tissue, and toning the skin.
  • Current devices available in the market are portable. You can take it anywhere with you with minimal set-up and can be used straight out of the box.
  • There are a few side effects on the use of leg compression machines although it can be avoided if the machine is used properly. Treatments are non-invasive, there is no downtime required after a session. These machines have long been used in rehab therapy and are clinically proven to bring relief from pain and speed up healing.


Who Could Benefit From Leg Compression?

leg compression therapy

Compression therapy machines can be found in hospitals and physical therapy centers.

People recovering from injury and trauma are the most common users of these machines.

Power athletes who have grueling training regimens also use leg compression massagers as part of their sports rehabilitation treatments.

Use of the machine also helps bring their bodies to its optimal form.

The United States Olympic team have bought several such machines for the use of the athletes before and after training.

The elderly who suffer chronic illnesses and have limited mobility also benefit from using leg compression machine technology.

Technology has come a long way.

Bulky hospital machines have been compressed into more portable and affordable versions.

Aside from patients in recovery and athletes in training, regular Joes can now use leg compression machines in the comfort of their homes.

People, no matter their situation in life, get affected by the same illnesses and health concerns.

The use of leg compression machines is ideal for people with problems such as runner’s heel (plantar fasciitis), water retention (edema), blood clots in the veins (deep vein thrombosis), varicose veins, cramps, blood circulation issues, and good old muscle fatigue.


How Do They Work?

A leg compression machine uses air in the leg cuffs to create peristaltic pulses –rhythmic alternate contraction and relaxation of the muscle–which helps the lymphatic and cardiovascular systems to fast track the removal of metabolic waste.

Using a leg compression machine speeds up the body’s recovery by decreasing the lactic acid, which builds up after intense workouts, out of the body’s system.

The veins do the work by pumping the blood to the heart and back when the body flushes the toxins and lactic acid build-up.

By using the machine, the body gets a boost with the air compression and recover faster with less stress on the body.

There have been studies conducted on the positive effects of compression machines on the body but the results have been mixed.

A 2013 study says the machines did nothing to improve recovery after strenuous exercise contrasts with a 2015 study that showed improved blood flow and decreased inflammation in the compressed area.


Are Home Leg Compression Machines The Same As The Ones In The Hospital?

Yes, it is essentially the same but to a lesser degree.

The differences lie primarily in the cost, the combination of settings and intensity of the pressure available, and the administration of its use by a medical professional.

Home leg compression machines cost up to 50% less than the ones used in hospitals which can run to thousands of dollars.

There are affordable quality home version now available in the market that ranges in price from $100 to $500

Compression machines for the home are personal use types.

It does not have heavy duty motors like the ones used in hospitals.

The medical grade quality ensures continued use with no changes in the machine’s performance quality.

Using compression machines in hospitals would need medical supervision.

The patient is given instructions on how to use the machine and at what setting to turn it to.

This is so the patients use it based on their body’s or injuries’ needs while the home version is more for maintenance use.


How Do Leg Compression Machines Help After Surgery?

pressotherapy

Use of a leg compression machine is recommended after recent surgery to increase blood flow in the body, particularly the lower extremities which helps pump blood back to the heart.

Increased blood flow keeps the injured area nourished with oxygen-rich blood leading to faster tissue repair.

Another crucial function of leg compression machines is it lessens the risk of blood clots forming when the legs cannot be moved or used.

This is especially crucial when you are bed bound and have limited mobility.

Increasing the blood flow heals tissue, soothes pain, and lessens scarring.

Use of the machine also helps to bring down the inflammation which again will result in a speedier recovery.


Does It Help Those With Varicose Veins?

varicose veins

Varicose veins are enlarged, twisted veins commonly found on the legs and are caused by weakened valves in the veins.

The weakened valves disrupt the flow of blood to the heart causing the blood to pool in the veins.

According to a 2016 study from the Journal of Physical Therapy Science, the controlled pulses or pressure from the leg compression machines increases the blood flow in the veins and reduces pain, and improves quality of life for women who are more likely to develop the condition.

Aside from varicose veins, it is also helpful with preventing and treating DVT or deep vein thrombosis.

Using the machines will help to prevent blood clots from forming by encouraging full blood circulation.

If clots are already formed, a course of blood thinners and regular use of the machine prevents new clots from forming and existing clots from traveling to other parts of the body like the lungs or the heart.


Leg Compression Machine For Lymphedema

As mentioned earlier, leg compression machines are useful for people who suffer circulation issues such as lymphedema.

Lymphedema is the swelling caused by the accumulation of lymph fluid just under the skin.

Prolonged lymphedema is damaging to organs and can eventually harden into fibrous masses limiting limb movement.

There is no cure for lymphedema but it can be controlled and treated.

For early lymphedema, elevating the legs can help to bring the swelling down.

But for some, a heavy feeling persists and this is where using the compression machine will help.

The intermittent pulses and pressure massages the legs and encourages blood and lymph fluid to circulate.

Word of caution: see your doctor first to determine the severity of your lymphedema.

There might be other treatments that can be used in conjunction with the leg compression machine.

Also, your health professional should give you proper instructions in the use of and how long the machine should be used.

See our article here for a review of recommended lymphedema leg compression machines.


Should You Buy Or Rent?

The answer lies in your need.

If you will use the machine for treatment support and muscle relaxation, buying one will not be a problem as the cost isn’t too hard on the pocket.

Affordable and quality made leg compression machines are available on the market with a price range from $100 to $900.

A medical grade leg compression machine is essential and life-saving for those with life-threatening illnesses.

Machines such as these range in price anywhere from $1,000 to upwards of $5,000.

The question is not “are you going to buy one?” but “how much will it cost you?”

A lymphedema pump is about $300 in monthly rentals and an additional $175 for the leg garment or cuffs.

Your length of use, financials, and health insurance coverage all factor into your decision.


Related Questions

Are there any side effects when using a leg compression machine? It all boils down to taking necessary precautions when using the machine, especially during the first time you use it. Some users have reported an increase in blood flow in the skin and an increase in temperatures but both effects ease after stopping treatment.  It is also mentioned that there is discomfort from the pressure, skin irritation and chafing, and sweating from being covered by the cuffs.

Extended periods of use may lead to pressure damage to the skin or nerve damage. This is rare though and would be avoided if the cuffs are adjusted to the correct tightness and the machine put on an automatic cycle that will turn off at set intervals.

Are leg compression machines covered by Medicaid/Medicare/insurance? Medicare and Medicaid have limited coverage for the use of leg compression machines. The coverage is allowed if the condition was deemed medically necessary and meet their guidelines and medical criteria.

Insurance coverage for leg compression machine differs based on the type of insurance plan you have. It is best to consult with your Medicaid/Medicaid/insurance professional so they can answer your questions thoroughl. Do note that there are medical equipment rental providers who do not bill insurance companies.

Who shouldn’t use a leg compression machine? Using leg compression machines isn’t recommended if you suffer from any of the following conditions: pain and numbness in the legs, infected wounds, gangrene, skin irritations, recent surgery, severe heart conditions and blood clots in the legs.

It would be good to seek medical attention first before using a leg compression machine or starting any new therapies. This would also ensure that you do not harm yourself and that the treatment you will use is not contraindicated with your existing therapies.


What’s The Best Leg Compression Machine Out There?

We’ve reviewed the best leg compression machines and finding the right device depends on your situation and current health concern.

In the article we breakdown the exact machine we recommend for people with different issues and situations.

The factors on which you would base your decision on is uniquely yours and may be highly subjective.

Take stock of the features that you are looking for and note the considerations for the condition of the person who’ll be using it.


References

English, N. (2018, June 02). Do Compression Boots Actually Do Anything? Retrieved from https://barbend.com/compression-boots-benefits/

John Hopkins Medical staff. (n.d.). DVT Prevention: Intermittent Pneumatic Compression Devices retrieved from https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/healthlibrary/test_procedures/cardiovascular/dvt_prevention_intermittent_pneumatic_compression_devices_135,328

NCCN staff. (n.d.) What You Should Know About Lymphedema. Retrieved from https://www.nccn.org/patients/resources/life_with_cancer/managing_symptoms/lymphedema.aspx

Mars, M. et al. (2005). The effect of compressed air massage on skin blood flow and temperature. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16211126

Editorial Staff
 

Editorial Staff at MindBodyPal is a team of experts led by Tyson Chiu. We love tacos, lattes and Funky Fridays.

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