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What Is Compression Underwear?

By Cindy Quarters
Updated May 21, 2024
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Compression underwear is underwear made of a tight, stretchy material such as spandex or a combination of Lycra® and nylon. This type of underwear is used by athletes for comfort, after surgery or liposuction to aid in the healing process, and as a means of body shaping for those who have a few bulges they would like to hide. Compression underwear is available in various forms, including shorts reaching to the mid-thigh and T-shirts or undershirts.

When worn as a post-surgical garment, compression underwear helps to prevent the formation of scar tissue. It is commonly used after plastic surgery such as a tummy tuck, buttock enhancement, male breast reduction, or similar procedures. These garments apply pressure that enhances comfort and reduces swelling at the surgical site. They also help to promote good blood circulation, when fitted and worn properly. First stage garments, those that apply the most pressure, are usually worn immediately after surgery, and can be traded for second stage garments once healing has reached a certain point.

Compression underwear and other compression garments are frequently used to help burn victims heal with minimal scarring. The compression effect promotes the growth of normal skin and minimizes injury-related edema. People who have had serious burning may need to wear compression garments for many months, while healing takes place.

Athletes routinely wear compression underwear. Many feel that such clothing helps to improve performance in a variety of sports, including football, baseball, tennis, and cycling. Some types of compression underwear have antibacterial properties, reducing body odor during activities. These garments may also have wicking properties, carrying the sweat away from the wearer’s skin and to the outer layers of the garment to evaporate.

Girdles and body-shaping clothing are a common type of compression underwear, though the term is not often used with these garments. Body shapers work by compressing whatever parts of the body they are covering, resulting in a leaner-looking, trimmer figure. The compression effect also helps to hold flabby skin and muscles in place so that there is no bouncing or jiggling when the wearer moves.

An important consideration when choosing compression underwear is proper fit. Despite the many benefits it provides, compression clothing can cause more harm than good if it is too tight. Extremely tight compression garments can cause circulation problems, localized swelling, and overall discomfort. When these garmentsare used for medical reasons they will be fitted by a doctor, but when people select these on their own they can check the manufacturer’s information on sizing for best results.

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Discussion Comments
By SarahGen — On Aug 11, 2014

I wear compression underwear when I go hiking. Regular shorts usually cause chafing and many other problems. They don't wick away moisture, so after a few hours of walking, it feels very moist and uncomfortable. Compression underwear prevents chafing all together. For men though, the important thing is selection a pair that's not too tight or too big. If it's too tight, it's not going to fulfill its purpose. It's a good idea to try it out or read some customer reviews before investing in a particular pair of compression underwear.

By literally45 — On Aug 11, 2014

@fify-- I'm no exactly sure how that works. Too much pressure will reduce circulation. But just enough might actually improve and regulate it. And since compression underwear prevents and reduces swelling, it is required after many injuries or surgeries. Swelling also causes issues with circulation, so that's another way that compression underwear helps.

This is not an underwear that can be worn constantly or every day unless a doctor has recommended it. When people wear these on their own, they usually wear it while exercising or playing sports. They provide more support and comfort during movement and help keep skin dry.

By fify — On Aug 10, 2014

I don't really understand how compression underwear will improve circulation. When I wear something tight, I experience just the opposite. Is it a good idea to wear compression underwear for many hours or daily?

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