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Using an intermittent pneumatic compression machine after knee replacement surgery could be a valuable tool for recovery. Most people are unfamiliar with a leg compression machine, so I will share what the device does and why these machines have become popular.
I used one after knee replacement surgery as part of ongoing therapy but it can also be used after fitness workouts, prolonged sitting or standing, and after strenuous activity like running or hiking.
Lastly I recommend and compare 5 leg compression machines that you can use after surgery. I’ll share which one is my favorite!
My Introduction To Leg Compression Machines
My son in-law recently introduced me to an intermittent Pneumatic Compression Device. He works in medicine and several times per week he spends the majority of the day on his feet.
He purchased a pneumatic compression devise (PCD) six months ago and he has been using it after fitness workouts and after long working days.
He was familiar with my knee replacement surgery and he was excited for me to give it a try. One evening after dinner, he hooked me up to the pneumatic compression device.
He set the timer for twenty minutes and adjusted the compression to level 7.
Right away it brought back memories of being in my hospital room after knee replacement surgery. In the hours after my surgery, I had a similar device attached to my surgical leg. This was done by my hospital nursing staff.
Even though my knee surgery is better than ever, I was wary about using this compression machine. It takes a few minutes to set up and the device goes from your toes all the way to the middle of your hip (like long boots).
Once the pulsating device started operating, I was pleasantly surprised by how nice it worked. It felt soothing during the twenty minutes and my legs felt refreshed afterwards.
My wife, with no history of leg problems, tried it next and was impressed with the relief she experienced after the long flight. My son tried it a few days later while watching television and thought it was great as well!
What Is An Intermittent Pneumatic Compression Device (also known as a Leg Compression Machine)
An intermittent pneumatic compression device is used to help prevent blood clots in your legs (often after surgery) and it is also used after a training or workout session.
The device uses cuffs that go around the legs that fill with air and squeeze your legs (pulsating). The pulsating tightens then relaxes around the leg.
Although it briefly becomes tight, it’s not painful and provides a relaxing wave of light pressure to the legs. The pulsating helps to increase blood flow through the veins in your legs.
5 Best Leg Compression Machines After Knee Replacement Surgery
Hyperice is the gold standard for leg compression and recovery. In the 5 options below, I’ll highlight 3 Hyperice products – they make the Normatc products (USA company) that I’ve shared in my photos. I’ll also share 2 other options (Chinese knock-offs) so you can see the differences.
1. Normatec Pulse 2.0
Normatec is a U.S. company that partners with all the major athletic brands (NBA, MLB, NFL) and individuals. Whether it’s Patrick Mahomes, Fernando Tatis Jr., or Rory Mcllroy, this company knows it’s branding.
The Normatec 2.0 is the best value compared to the other options on the list. Competitively priced (compared to the other options) and HSA or FSA eligible, it is well-made with nylon in Massachusetts (check out the prices on Amazon). It features:
- A 2-year warranty
- 7 intensity levels
- Quiet operation
- Cordless operation if needed
- HAS or FSA eligible
It cost several hundred dollars, but so do all other options. If you’re looking for quality, this is your best bet, especially when it comes with a 2-year warranty.
2. Normatec Pulse 2.0 Recovery Package
Normatec’s Recovery Package is a bit more expensive but comes with a few more bells and whistles. It is high tech, using an application that allows you to control the machine from your phone.
The 2.0 Pack is a smaller size, perfect for travelling and has compression cycles at different levels to focus on specific parts of the body and includes deep tissue massage. One negative is its price at more than double my first ranked option (view the Normatec package on Amazon).
It weights 11 pounds so it’s not too heavy. This wouldn’t be my first choice but if money is no object, it could be perfect for you!
3. Doctor Life Compression System
The Doctor Life leg compression device comes in 3 sizes (L, XL, and 2XL). As far as I can tell, the sizes are a differentiator from the other options on the list. It’s a competitive price but not much different from competitors.
It advertises itself as a device that improves blood circulation and lymphatic system function as well as a relief option for knee problems, swelling, tension, and varicose veins. And it boasts an FDA medical grade clearance (view listing on Amazon).
It’s display offers pressure settings, a timer, and a focus area setting (upper leg versus lower leg).
4. Therabody Compression Massage Boots
Don’t be fooled by the title, they are more than boots. They are a full leg compression system that includes a pneumatic device, power adapter, blocker plug and a handy carrying bag.
The boots are stylish and similar to the other options on the list, made of tough nylon.
The battery will last 180 minutes without a charge. Each cycle of inflation and deflation takes about 60 seconds (view Therabody pricing on Amazon).
Users can choose between 2 treatment options and 4 time interval options, as well as pressure options. If you’ve heard of the Theragun, or Theraface facial treatment, this is the same quality company that produces those products – the Theragun works great for post-knee surgery as well.
5. Hyperice Normatec Go (Calves)
This is another Hyperice product and I’ve added it because the company is solid. This option is not the full sleeve compression, it’s strictly for the calves (view on Amazon).
It’s marketed as an on-the-go product, so it can be worn while walking around (even TSA approved). It’s completely portable and more similar to the compression sleeves I wore while I was in the hospital.
A unique aspect of this compression device is its lack of hoses/tubes, so it can be worn while walking or sitting at your desk. Priced at half the price as the full compression device, it’s a more affordable option, but also a smaller option.
I like the portability of this option, but I still prefer the option I ranked first.
5 Benefits of a Leg Compression Machine
As I mentioned, I was hooked up to a leg compression device immediately after my knee replacement surgery. This was to encourage blood flow and circulation to the surgery area.
Below are several benefits to consider.
- The device increases blood flow through the veins and helps to prevent blood clots. After knee surgery, blood clots are something the medical team is very concerned about and they will monitor patients closely while in the hospital.
- People who have poor circulation can benefit by a regular therapy routine using the leg compression machine after TKR.
- Prevents and reduces swelling. They wanted me to leave it on continuously during the first night post TKR encouraging me to urinate in the bedside bottle so that the machine did not have to be unhooked for me to walk to the bathroom.
- Reduces pain after TKR as well as pain after prolonged activity. If you experience leg pain after a long hike, vigorous activity, prolonged standing or sitting, the device can help relieve pain by increasing the circulation in your leg.
- Relaxes. My experience with the device made me very relaxed, and after using it several times I actually fell asleep. Fortunately, you set the timer and the device turns off at the designated time.
- Leg compression also for general health. Whether you are recovering from TKR, or an elite athlete, or a retired senior citizen, this device can be an ongoing therapy similar to a professional massage.
For those who have experienced TKR, it is easier than using a hand held massage tool or asking a loved one to massage your legs. It is beneficial pre or post exercise.
The Cost Of An Intermittent Pneumatic Compression Device
Most of the leg compression machines I’ve seen are in the range of $600. They aren’t cheap!
Some even retail for over $1000. The Normatec brand is the most well-known option and it’s the PCD that I tried. At around $600 it comes with a 2-year warranty, which makes me feel a bit more confident if I were to buy it.
I’ve also written a review about compression socks, which are great for flights, road trips, and long periods of sitting.
I had a positive experience using the PCD during the 5 weeks I was visiting in Australia. I am currently shopping around and will use the research for this article to help me with my purchase of a device for my own use.
The device is beneficial after TKR or any type of leg surgery. It can become a regular part of your recovery plan after exercise.
It can help relieve pain, soothe sore muscles and help you to recover faster from activities like pickleball, tennis, golf, hiking and gardening.
It can also relieve the impact daily activities put on your legs. There are several different brands on the market with varying price tags.
Remember that you are investing in your health!