It doesn’t take much thought to realize that your leg muscles undergo the most constant and greatest strain throughout the day. Your knees bear the brunt of that weight since they are the levers that mediate almost every action. As a result, it’s not a surprise that knee pain and stiffness are among the most common joint issues that people of all ages — from young to old — experience and mention to their physicians.
The specific reasons for knee pain vary of course, from conventional, everyday usage pains, to arthritis-induced inflammation and other specific medical conditions. Ultimately, no matter the source of the knee pain (for the most part, specific conditions resulting from cancer might be resistant to mechanical forms of aid), all your knees really need are support. This support could be simply to help shift the weight from your torso to something other than your knee joints or to lessen the impact of active sports. This is where knee sleeves come in. Despite their relative simplicity, they are very good for many knee joint-related issues.
Knee Sleeves In Action
The general purpose of knee sleeves is to provide compression to the knees, as well as the warmth that encourages blood flow. When blood can flow easily to a region, it brings all the healing mechanisms of hemoglobin. In a sense, the knee sleeve provides a double grace: the warmth it provides helps with blood flow, and the compression performs in like manner — as well as providing joint protection through stability and control. It shifts a lot of the pressures your knee joints experience more evenly to the rest of the leg.
Another major benefit of knee sleeves is for weightlifters — especially those who squat, deadlift, clean-jerk, snatch or any variation of the above (as you might see in CrossFit). As any seasoned weightlifter knows, the warmer you can make your muscles before any heavy lift, the more power you can derive from those muscles, and the less prone they are to injury. The sleeves will have a warming effect immediately, which will then encourage the blood flow to that region. As we have seen, blood flow to a region dampens the chances of injury and makes the muscle and joints in that area more efficient.
There are also mechanical advantages that are conferred by a good knee sleeve. The compression aspect will help stabilize your kneecaps during strenuous exercises like the squat and bent-over row. Over time, in fact, this will lead to better form via muscle memory, and improve your proprioception in understanding where your kneecaps are and should be in relation to the rest of your legs for optimal movement during the exercise in question.
Finally, for this section, knee sleeves are even good to use post-workout, as they continue the blood flow-enhancing compressions effect. As any bodybuilder or athlete knows, your muscles only grow when the workout is finished. During the workout itself, you are actually breaking them down. Since blood is flowing to the region, any swelling and pain will be minimized by the presence of a fitted sleeve.
Knee Sleeves: A Triumvirate of Benefits
As we have seen, knee sleeves can manage pain in your knee joints and provide support during certain lifts. In fact, they can provide knee support even for those who don’t lift weights. Everyday activities such as walking or standing for long periods can be assuaged by wearing fitted knee sleeves. Let’s summarize the benefits in three distinct sections:
Knee Sleeves Provide Compression: As stated earlier, you don’t have to engage in strenuous weight-lifting to take advantage of the compression that knee sleeves provide. Their ability to improve blood flow to your leg region has benefits for all people. Additionally, knee sleeves are known to reduce swelling in the region around your knee joints. By providing extra warmth to your knee region, they encourage the blood flow that ultimately facilitates healing. Take care to search for the particular knee sleeve that holds the most benefit for your situation, as some of them are better for the kneecaps specifically, whereas others are better for providing support to the entire knee region.
Knee Sleeves for Primarily Knee Support: This supportive feature of knee sleeves, while separate from compression per se, is part-and-parcel with it. They tend to go hand-in-hand. Because your legs support your torso, and the knees are the levers, there’s a lot of natural stress on the knee joints. When you factor in exercise and how much time we spend upright, it’s safe to say that no other part of the body endures as much constant stress. To alleviate this, knee sleeves are excellent for averaging out those stresses over the entire leg — taking a huge amount of pressure off the knees. You can, in fact, see that professional (as well as amateur) Olympic weightlifters and bodybuilders are always wearing thick knee sleeves to aid them with their lifts, as well as protect their knees by distributing the pressure throughout the entire leg.
Knee Sleeves Aid Knee Recovery: Lastly, knee sleeves are known to aid in recovery. Not only do they limit the chances of injury to the knee joint, but they also reduce swelling that has already occurred. The mechanism by which they accomplish this is by increasing the flow of blood to the region (the knee joint, in particular). This helps to soothe the inflammation that otherwise leads to unchecked swelling. When looking for knee sleeves, make sure that the compression material is elastic but firm, so it doesn’t lose the compression aspect that is so helpful in knee recovery.
What Should Your Knee Sleeve Possess?
At the most basic level, all viable knee sleeves should provide compression, support and some flexibility (hence the elastic material). The variations should stem primarily from the thickness of the material used in their construction. If you’re a serious weightlifter who does squats, the material should be thicker to provide greater compression.