Compression sleeves can be a valuable tool to aid recovery after knee replacement surgery. They’re commonly used by athletes, people in good health, and by people recovering from surgery to reduce swelling and inflammation.
They are also used on flights to limit swelling and the potential for blood clots.
I’ve used compression sleeves on my knee throughout my adult life and I recommend them. In this article I’ll discuss why a compression sleeve should be a part of your recovery routine after total knee replacement surgery.
I’ll share information about my use and preferences, and we’ll look at the 6 best compression sleeves to use after knee replacement.
My Use Of Compression Sleeves
I’ve have used the same (only one) compression sleeve the past ten years. Yes, it’s an older model but the elastic has held up and it continues to work well.
A number of years ago I wore it to play basketball and softball. The compression sleeve gave my knee more support, kept the knee warm and also kept the joint more secure (at least that was the feeling it provided me).
These days I still wear the compression sleeve when I exercise. Pickle ball has become my sport of choice and it can be tough on the knees.
The compression sleeve isn’t bulky, is easy to put on and gives me some peace of mind that my knee won’t give out. It’s also easy to clean. I can wear it a few days then throw it in the washing machine.
You might be wondering, “why not wear a brace” – that’s a good question. I’ve also worn a number of braces but I find them bulky and they take more effort to wear.
Occasionally the metal pieces of the brace will rub against my skin and it doesn’t feel well, so I stick to the compression sleeve. One note: my doctor recently ordered me a new brace that he says will help a lot.
I’ll write about the outcome later.
What Are Compression Sleeves
Our familiarity with compression sleeves comes mostly from seeing athletes wearing them. In recent decades professional athletes have used these sleeves on their arms and legs during games and matches.
I first began using compression shorts for my hips and thighs – I believe the shorts are most common but usually unseen.
These days if you watch sporting events you’ll see basketball players with sleeves on their arms and legs, baseball players with sleeves on their arms, football players using sleeves on their knees, and tennis players with sleeves on their elbows.
Originally the colors and options were limited but now they’ve also become a fashion statement. Don’t worry, they do have functional use and can help you as you recover from surgery.
How Do Compression Sleeves Work
As I’ve looked into the benefits of using compression sleeves, I’ve found that some of my assumptions may have been wrong. I’ve always thought that wearing a compression sleeve during exercise was the best method.
One of the reasons I like wearing the sleeve is because I feel more support around the muscles and joints. However, compression sleeves might provide the best effects when worn after exercise when muscles, ligaments, and joints tend to swell and become inflamed.
During exercise there is ample blood flow, so the internal benefits for reducing swelling and inflammation is largely unnecessary. Once blood circulation slows after exercise, build up of fluid byproducts in the area begins to increase and this is where compression sleeves can really help.
Billy Sperlich, a professor of sport science in Germany, was quoted in the New York Times, stating “Compression sleeves appear to significantly aid muscle recovery once strenuous exercise is over.
The sleeves augment the flow of blood through muscles after exercising when blood flood usually slows.
Increasing blood flow to and from the muscles after exercise can help flush some of the biochemical byproducts after hard workouts like lactate, by reducing inflammation and muscle aches.”
I must admit, I like the way the compression sleeve supports my knee and keeps it warm while exercising. I’ll likely continue to use it – if it’s not broken don’t fix it right (pun intended)?
I’ll also consider wearing the compression sleeve long after I exercise rather than taking it off right away. If it helps reduce swelling and speeds up my recovery from knee replacement surgery, I’m all for it.
Should I Also Wear Compression Socks After Knee Replacement Surgery
Another option besides a compression sleeve for your knee is wearing a compression sock for the entire lower leg after surgery. This might be a recommendation of your doctor and I’ve read a number of articles suggesting that compression socks should definitely be used post knee surgery.
Serious surgeries like knee replacement will result in significant swelling and inflammation and the lower leg will have a tendency to swell. It’s important for the body to circulate out the fluid build up afterward.
Wearing compression socks will also help prevent blood clots from developing in the leg.
According to the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons, deep vein thrombosis (DVT) is the formation of a blood clot within a deep vein. It commonly occurs in the thigh or calf and can develop after significant surgery including the leg and hip.
Special socks that go up to the thigh are called anti-embolism stockings. These stocking should be worn as much as possible during the first week after knee replacement surgery.
In my experience, once you’re up and active with walking and exercise, you can begin to use the stockings less frequently.
When Should I Wear A Compression Sleeve After Surgery
We’ve discussed compression sleeves and compression socks in the sections above and given the information presented, when should I wear compression sleeves after surgery?
There is a good chance that compression socks will be recommended by your doctor after surgery. These will be worn as often as possible while your knee heals from surgery.
In the days after surgery, there will be a lot of inflammation and swelling and full leg compression socks will help keep blood and fluids flowing out of your leg (reducing build up).
Once you’re up and walking, compression socks can be worn less often, however a compression sleeve should be strongly considered after exercise.
For example, you’re likely to have physical therapy sessions for months after knee replacement surgery and after physical therapy your leg might have swelling and inflammation.
Wearing a sleeve or compression sock after your exercise is a wise decision. As I’ve mentioned in other articles, compression should be used in conjunction with ice, heating, and elevation – especially after exercise.
Should I Use A Knee Compression Sleeve When Sleeping
Directly after surgery, wearing compression socks during sleep is probably a good idea. After recovery from the surgery, the need for wearing compression socks around-the-clock will reduce so wearing while sleeping may not be necessary (check with your doctor).
Also, because you are sleeping horizontal, circulation is easier for blood and fluid to exit your legs.
The 5 Best Compression Sleeves To Use After Knee Replacement Surgery
Ultra Flex Athletics – Uflex Knee Compression Sleeve
Ultra Flex Athletics makes the most popular knee compression sleeve on the market. It boasts almost 10,000 reviews from customers with knee pain, arthritis, and knee replacement.
This product comes as a single (not pair). It’s suitable for most sporting activities including waking, hiking, golf, and can be used around the house on a daily basis.
The sleeve uses a double silicone anti-slip grip to form a good hold on the knee. The material is a nylon and Lycra blend, allowing the sleeve to expand and fit different sizes of knee.
The sizes offered are small (14.5-17” circumference), medium (17-19.5”) and large (19.5-22”).
They also have a moderate compression or high compression depending on your preference and comfort level. It’s length measures 10.5 inches long.
Ultra Flex offers a 30 days money back return policy and they also mention if you’re not satisfied, contact them to return the product. Based on the excellent reviews I doubt you’ll return it.
“Best compression sleeve ever” and “comfortable” are just a few of the 1000’s of positive comments. This is my best recommendation for a knee sleeve – it can also fit under pants if you also want to wear it when not exercising.
Crucial Compression – Knee Brace Compression Sleeve (Pair)
The Crucial Compression knee sleeve is recommended for supporting knees with meniscus tears, arthritis, joint pain relief, injury recoveries like ACL and MCL. The sleeves come in a pair and at a price hard to beat (rather cheap).
But don’t worry about quality because these compression sleeves have solid reviews.
Crucial Compression sleeves come in 5 sizes – all the way up to knees 26” in circumference. The compression sleeve provides an added layer of support and stability while reducing inflammation and swelling.
It uses an ergonomic fit that’s snug but doesn’t cut off circulation or your range of motion.
The Crucial Compression sleeve is made from nylon, rubber, and spandex with an interior silicone grip so it won’t slip. It is nice that it comes in many sizes and in a pair rather than just 1 – makes me think I can rotate them while 1 sleeve is being washed.
The reviews are good with most people saying the sleeves do the job for the right price. One negative reviewer commented that they weren’t as durable as expected, but for a great price, you can always buy another pair.
Sable – Knee Brace Support Compression Sleeve (Pair)
Sable brings us a fashionable pair of compression sleeves with great customer feedback. They come in 4 sizes (small-XL) and have a different style material than the others on our list.
They use a flexible and breathable fabric that is an elastic weave using nylon and spandex. It is a thinner compression sleeve but has a great lifetime warranty so you don’t have to worry about stretching it out over time.
It can be worn for sport or under clothes and looks great as well. I like the design, colors, and the fact it’s priced well for a pair.
The support for the knee is good without cutting off circulation and some reviewers say they keep buying the sleeves for other people in their family. This is a solid product for people recovering from 1 or 2 knee replacement surgeries.
PowerLix Compression Knee Sleeve
The PowerLix compression sleeve markets itself for the active person recovering from knee pain or surgery. They offer a 6-month guarantee on the product “no questions asked”.
It fits snugly based on your size preference (small-XL) and it’s made with material featuring nylon and spandex. It also has 2 silicone bands inside (top and bottom) which are there to help keep the sleeve in place.
Reviews for the product are great but there were some comments on the silicone band stating that it was slightly uncomfortable. One comment mentions the benefits received from this compression sleeve after 2 knee replacements.
Additional Option For Compression:
SB Sox Compression Socks For Men And Women
If you’re also looking for a high-quality pair of compression socks, SB Sox makes stylish socks that also perform well. They have plenty of styles from stripes to solid colors and are for men and women.
They are made for exercise and for people with medical challenges like edema, diabetes, varicose veins, pregnancy, and shin splints. Although these don’t cover the knee, they can help people recovering from knee replacement by reducing swelling in the lower legs.
If you’ve recently had a knee replacement and will be travelling, compression socks are a must when on a plane. Blood clots are known to occur on planes because of cabin pressure, dehydration, and blood swelling in the leg from sitting for long periods of time.
They come in 4 sizes, with premium nylon and spandex construction, and the compression is measured at 20-30mmHg.
Customers love this product – it almost has perfect reviews. Comments discuss their use on planes, while standing for long periods of time, after leg surgeries, and while pregnant.
The feedback is so good I might have to buy a pair for myself.
The use of compression sleeves cover a range of activities and situations from athletics, to surgeries, to use on planes, standing for long periods of time, and while pregnant.
Knee compression sleeves work well to reduce inflammation and swelling after knee replacement surgery and while most people use compression while exercising, we learned the most valuable time to use compression is after activity when inflammation and swelling can become problematic.
I’ve used a compression sleeve for my knee for over a decade and I like the support and reassurance it gives me while I exercise. Now that I’ve had knee replacement surgery I’m making a point to use compression (along with icing, elevation, and heat) after activity to help with quicker recovery.
In the days after surgery, you’ll want to use compression as much as possible. Once inflammation and swelling has subsided, you can use compression after exercise and physical therapy sessions.
Although compression sleeves and socks aren’t required during sleep, your doctor might advise you to wear them at night.
We touched on a few popular compression sleeves and I shared the best compression sleeve to use after knee replacement surgery, but don’t let me stop you from doing further research.
Furthermore, compression socks might be a good addition to a sleeve and will help with circulation when standing for long periods of time or on flights when blood clotting might be an issue.
I hope this article provides useful information as you proceed with knee replacement surgery. The procedure can be daunting – just remember that many of us have gone through it as well.
With hard work, you can improve your life and recover quickly.