Pneumatic Compression Devices and Electric Muscle Stimulation
It turns out that donning those air-filled compression boots, shorts, and sleeves — you know, the ones that make it look like you’re wearing a blow-up doll — is actually worth your time. “In terms of localized muscle recovery, I think that’s the best of anything,” Cofield says.
Wearable devices from companies like NormaTec and Rapid Reboot use dynamic, distal-to-proximal compression, meaning the pressure begins at the fingers and toes and travels toward the center of the body. In the process, waste products and excess fluid are pushed out of the limbs, reducing swelling and discomfort.
Electric muscle stimulation (EMS), which uses adhesive electrodes to contract muscles, works similarly. The body’s own muscle contractions are used to pump out fluid. However, unless the pads are placed strategically, EMS won’t provide distal-to-proximal stimulation. On top of that, EMS lacks the full, circumferential coverage that compression devices provide. In other words, EMS can help with pain and swelling, but it’s less effective than compression.