Pneumatic Compression vs. Compression Stockings

Compression therapy is necessary and beneficial for different needs, medical or non-medical. The primary function of compression therapy is to apply pressure to muscle tissues which will help the blood vessels to circulate blood efficiently throughout the body.
There are different types of compression garments in the market — some can be as simple as compression socks or bandages, and others can be a compression device system. These compression devices or gears are used for therapy or for support to ease discomfort on the legs and feet.
Compression can be applied to the upper and lower extremities. When there is proper blood circulation, it helps the body to reduce, prevent. eliminate, alleviate, and reverse symptoms such as:
  • Swelling
  • Pain
  • Fatigue
  • Inflammation
  • Venous problems
  • Deep vein thrombosis
  • Plantar fasciitis
  • Arthritis
  • Etc.

1. Different Types of Compression Therapy

Compression therapy is used for the treatment and prevention of different vascular ailments. It includes deep vein thrombosis (DVT), venous thromboembolism, etc.
There are several options for compression therapy available, and usually, the type of therapy would be under a patient’s specific medical need. Factors include mobility, level of pressure, if there’s exercise involved, or if assistance is also needed due to surgery.

Types of Compression Therapy:

  • Non-elastic bandages – this type of compression bandage has limited efficacy since it has to be applied while wet and will only develop pressure after drying up. In which case, pressure is not applied appropriately. Examples of non-elastic bandages are crepe bandages and plaster of Paris.
  • Multi-component bandage system – as the name suggests, it uses different types of different bandages. It provides compression, support, and padding. It has visual indicators for optimal pressure.
  • Elastic bandages – this type of compression therapy needs assistance from a health professional or caregiver to ensure that the correct amount of pressure is applied. Otherwise, the efficiency of the compression may be compromised if the bandage is either too tight or too loose.
  • Compression stockings – this is usually the primary option for compression therapy. Although putting on compression hosiery can be challenging for those that are suffering from arthritis, there are sock aids that can be used for assistance.
  • Intermittent pneumatic compression is a compression therapy device more commonly known as IPC. This compression device has control settings for pressure adjustments.

2. Intermittent Pneumatic Compression Device (IPC)

Intermittent pneumatic compression, also called sequential compression devices, is an inflatable medical apparatus that you wear on your legs and feet. An IPC has an air-pumping device connected to the sleeves or boots that have air pockets inside. The IPC device inflates and deflates within 60-second intervals, and this movement compresses or squeezes the muscle tissues.
IPCs are programmable for compression control on each section of the legs and feet. Most IPC devices have a preset compression cycle that is adjustable to a patient’s preference. In the same manner, as all compression wear, IPC’s function is to improve blood circulation and prevent blood clots from forming after surgery.

3. Intermittent Pneumatic Compression vs. Compression Stockings to Prevent Thrombosis

You may be wondering which compression therapy can give the optimal benefit. Is it IPC or compression socks?
In concept, they both apply pressure and are very effective in compression therapy. However, there are significant differences between the two. Although the question is, which is more effective to prevent thrombosis?
According to a comparison published by the National Library of Medicine in 2010, both the IPC and compression stockings are approved as prophylaxis for patients that have undergone surgery. Both compression therapies are effective for thrombosis prevention.
On the other hand, there are still pros and cons between the two, and one major factor is mobility. If you can already be on your feet, you don’t need to remove your compression stockings every time you need to stand up. Meanwhile, with the IPC, you have to remove and wear it every single time. On the contrary, since IPC is a device, you can always have the compression settings adjusted to the pressure level you prefer. So, it would depend on the individual which one to use.

4. Intermittent Pneumatic Compression Device Price

There are IPCs available in the market that ranges from $100 to over $1000. Intermittent pneumatic compression devices are also available online. Here are some IPC devices that you can check:

Life-IPC04 Lymphedema Compression Pump For Circulation and Swelling

This is an advanced IPC for individuals who prefer to self-manage their conditions, such as lymphedema and venous ulcers. It has a pressure range of 30 to 250 mmHg with six modes for specified needs.

$300 +/-
An all-on-one compression therapy device for both upper and lower extremities. With six modes available. Ideal for edema relief, leg and body massage, and sports recovery.
It has ten air compression settings using a handheld controller. It’s lightweight and portable. It gently applies and releases massage pressure to the ankles, legs, and feet. This device is ideal for mobility issues, fluid retention, painful and uncomfortable varicose veins, tired muscles, travel stiffness, sports injuries, etc.
Choosing between compression socks/stockings or intermittent pneumatic compression devices is still your preference. Since both products can deliver the results, they are intended to do. As mentioned, there are pros and cons between these two compression gears, but it will always depend on your need and what your health practitioner will recommend for your medical condition.

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