Compression – Don't Let It Scare You

Published in Wound Care on January 30, 2019

Heather Trumm

By Heather Trumm, Director of VGM Wound Care

Compression…does the word scare you? It may for some because compression can seem overwhelming! I will try to help you understand one aspect of compression a little better. 

Many of you already know that 6-7 million Americans suffer from chronic venous disease. Venous disease occurs when the venous blood has trouble traveling back to the heart from the lower extremities. Generally, it’s due to nonfunctioning or weakened values that pump the blood back. Where does compression come in?

Compression therapy is used to reduce hydrostatic pressure and helps the venous blood flow back to the heart. With venous insufficiency, we know that the valves aren’t working like they should; therefore, the blood and fluid tends to pool in the lower extremities. We want to get the blood and fluid back into the system where it’s supposed to be. 

We are going to look at one feature of compression products based on the type of material used to deliver the compression or pressure. Elastic and inelastic compression. What’s the difference? 

Elastic Compression

Elastic compression adapts to the changes in limb circumference or volume. Elastic compression exerts external pressure while the leg is at rest. It also puts external pressure on the calf muscle during ambulation. You could say that elastic compression provides a good resting pressure but also provides static compression. 

This type of compression is appropriate for patients who are slightly sedentary or fail to use the calf muscle. Types of elastic compression include, but are not limited to, the following: multilayer wraps, long stretch wraps, tubular sleeves, and stockings. 

Elastic compression is cost-effective, there’s a very large selection, they are attractive, and they provide consistent compression. 

Inelastic Compression

Inelastic compression could also be called nonelastic and will not expand during ambulation. Inelastic compression is most appropriate for patients who are actively ambulating. When the patient is ambulating and the calf muscle presses up against the “inelastic” compression, pressure is created. When the patient is at rest, there is no calf pump muscle activity and limited compression occurs. 

Inelastic compression provides good working pressure and dynamic compression. It also is adjustable, easy to apply, and is a stiffer and stronger product. 

Examples of inelastic compression include, but are not limited to, short stretch wraps and paste wraps. Another example of inelastic compression would be intermittent pneumatic pumps. 

Click here to watch a video about a type of inelastic compression called juxtalite.

For more information on compression, please contact me at [email protected] or 800-642-6065.


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