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 Athletes who undergo rigorous training often cause damage to their muscles and joints in which impacts further training and success.  This damage can cause exercise-induced inflammation, repetitive stress and trauma to the muscles. Symptoms include soreness, swelling, and tenderness, in part secondary to local increased lactic acid resulting in decreased range of motion. Therefore, quick recovery is crucial for athletes to regain and strive for optimal performance in their sport. For athletes striving for optimal recovery and performance, intermittent pneumatic compression (IPC) has gained popularity, initially in the 2010 Olympics. Several research papers have shown usage of IPC may benefit the recovery times in athletes.

Physiology and Mechanism of Action

Post exercise, the venous return is significantly reduced thus allowing for the build up of carbon dioxide, lactic acid and metabolic waste. The goal of IPC is to massage and squeeze your muscles intermittently for a period of time. Research has shown this IPC can decrease swelling and pain, enhance lymphatic return, and increase blood flow which was shown in the studies to restore strength and endurance 10 times faster compared to rest alone. This effect is due to removal of the lactic acid and metabolic waste that can of build up after intense training. Proper recovery following exercise is important to repair the transitory and long- term impairments created by the stress of training and competition. Following rehydration, correcting the metabolic disturbances and restoring glycogen stores is paramount for recovery of exhaustive exercise. Theoretically, IPC can reduce the space available for swelling, hemorrhage and hematoma formation as well as providing mechanical support.


There are three primary treatment options available using compression. A typical treatment lasts no longer than 15-20 minutes.

  1. Pre-workout to benefit in warm up and promote blood flow
  2. Post-workout used to speed up muscle recovery, decrease muscle fatigue and stiffness
  3. Post rehab or injury to reduce edema and stiffness

Using this technique can speed recovery and relieve muscle soreness in a shorter period of time. Although research is still very limited in this field, the preliminary studies indicate intermittent pneumatic compression may help improve athlete’s ability to restore strength and endurance faster than rest alone, therefore allowing the athlete to train harder and more often than those who use passive rest following training.

If you have not yet tried IPC or incorporated IPC into your training regime, you can visit our newly opened Synergy Recovery Room where we have NormaTec compression boots for public use. We have great low cost membership options available that will allow unlimited access to those boots and other recovery tools and services to help take your training to the next level. Please check out the website www.synergyrecoveryroom.com for more information. 


-Stephanie Kurica, SPT 

Student Physical Therapist

Synergy Manual Physical Therapy 

600 S. 21st Street Suite 130

Colorado Springs, CO 80904

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