Without even knowing you personally, it’s safe to assume that at some point during any given week, your legs, ankles, and feet hurt. Maybe it’s infrequent, or perhaps it’s every single day.
It’s a shared malady, backed by statistics suggesting that more than half of American adults deal with persistent lower extremity aches and pains. And to make matters worse, the underlying issues that often are the culprits of leg pain, if left untreated, can also manifest as hip and back pain.
So now that you know you’re in good (if not, miserable) company, are you ready to find out how to start treating the nagging ills of the day that are causing those cramps and aches? An air compression leg massager may be the answer you’ve been seeking, and with the right one in your home health care arsenal, leg pain can very well soon be a thing of the past.
What Are Air Compression Leg Massagers?
While the name itself is fairly straight forward and self-explanatory, for leg pain sufferers, the relief felt after a few sessions with one of these devices can be extraordinary. An air compression leg massager is a cuff that encircles the lower extremities.
Most manufacturers’ offerings including two separate sleeves, one for each leg, and each consists of a cloth, fabric, or some other type of exterior, underneath which lies a series of chambers.
Each cuff is attached to air hoses that are operated by a remote control which is typically required to be plugged into an electrical outlet. Upon turning on the unit, air flows into the chambers in varying patterns, and delivers a squeezing effect (i.e. compression).
Compression Massage vs Other Methods
Compression massage differs in execution than the style of massage that usually comes to mind when we think of the modality. For anyone who’s ever received a professional massage, most likely what you experienced fell along the lines of shiatsu, deep tissue, or Swedish stylings.
Recognizable by long, broad strokes and a muscle-kneading effect, these methods are great for relaxation, breaking up adhesions, quelling active trigger points, and instilling an overall sense of calm and relaxation.
Compression massage works by squeezing the muscle belly with different amounts of pressure, and while the process of delivery may differ from other styles, by no means should it be considered inferior or any less effective.
Compression may help in stimulating circulation, encouraging tight muscle tissue to relax and soften, and can reduce swelling, especially at the end of a long day spent on your feet.
Also, nearly any flavor of massage therapy fires up the parasympathetic nervous system, which in turn floods the bloodstream with all kinds of wonderful endorphins, as well as serotonin and dopamine – chemicals whose primary purpose is to lull you into a state of tranquility.
Don’t discount the squeeze; it may be different than what you’re expecting with a massage, but it delivers the goods same as its poking, prodding, and stroking brethren.
Is This Something I Really Need?
If you’ve spent any measure of time researching all the wonderful ways that you can help your body tap into its own restorative properties, then you’ve probably amassed a TLC-themed toolbox full of roam rollers, massage guns, and stretching straps.
So, do you really need an apparatus designed solely for taking care of your lower extremities?
Ponder the following:
- First and foremost, as is the case with any home medical device, are you an appropriate candidate for such a product? There are conditions which would stand as a direct contraindication for using an air compression leg massager – poor circulation, blood clots, wounds, to name a few. Always check with a health care practitioner first.
- Are you on your feet all day, or is your active lifestyle giving your legs a pounding on the regular? If so, then issues such as swelling, muscle cramps, strains and sprains, and frequent soreness are not strange bedfellows to you. A massage device catering to just your legs can help remedy many of these issues. And for the athlete, a pre-game massage can warm up the legs and really get the blood pumping.
- Can You Sit Still? An Air Compression Leg Massager does its duty when you’re sitting, reclining, or lying down. It’s a passive activity for the end user that generally lasts around 20-25 minutes, during which you really can’t be up moving around. If maintaining one position or location for such a period of time is challenging, then you’re robbing yourself of the full massage experience.
- Air Compression Leg Massagers come in many different makes and models and run the gamut in terms of pricing. Luckily, there are many fantastic products readily available to fit most individual needs and budgets.
Like any other home medical device, air compression leg massagers have their benefits, but they’re only as good as the consistency with which they’re used. They’re a great addendum to other types of pain-relief devices, easy to store away when not in use, and not so cost-prohibitive that puts them out of the reach of the general public.
Made the decision to pull the trigger and pick up an air compression leg massager? Scrolling through the hundreds of models available will unearth multitudes of devices that, at a glance, all appear to be fairly the same in appearance. Rest assured, however, that individual manufacturers imbue their products with distinctive features that’ll treat your legs in different ways.
While, inherently, all air compression leg massagers work by moving air and squeezing your lower extremities, consider the following features before settling on a specific device:
Ease of use
The leg cuffs themselves are easy enough for a single person to apply without any extra assistance and are usually held in place with straps. The handheld control used to engage the device can be a different story. Some contain nothing more than a few rudimentary buttons with very little explanation, while others offer a fully backlit LED display. If it’s too difficult to understand, the likelihood of that massager making its way out of the box and onto your legs drops substantially.
Some only wrap around the feet, ankles, and calves. Others extend up past the knee and cover the thigh as well. How long of cuff you need is personal preference more than anything else.
Just how many ways can you spell RELIEF? Massagers will often include at least an alternating full leg option and a bilateral mode that targets both limbs at the same time. Others include specific patterns, such as alternating right calf, left thigh, and so on.
Introducing heat into a massage can further reduce muscle tension, improve circulatory return, and improve the overall experience. This is definitely a much-appreciated bonus for active folks using the cuffs for a pre-workout warmup.
Perfecore Leg Massager
A great cuff at a reasonable price, the Perfecore Leg Massager is an extra-long massager that services the thighs, knees, calves, and feet.
The hand control takes a little playing around with to understand, and unfortunately, the included instruction manual is poorly written with subpar explanations of the individual massage modes and inconsistent recommendations about frequency and duration of use.
Also, the material itself can get uncomfortably warm for an unheated massage device. But these setbacks are minor and shouldn’t dissuade anyone from giving the Perfecore Leg Massager serious consideration.
- Covers thigh, knee, ankle, and foot
- Four massage modes with three levels of pressure
- Non-digital handheld remote
RENPHO Leg Massager with Heat
Interestingly, many of the heated massagers only deliver warmth to one segment of the cuff. The RENPHO Leg Massager with Heat, a compression device built for feet, ankles, and calves, ensures therapeutic warmth is felt from top to bottom. The built-in auto-off feature which activates after 20 minutes, is also a welcome addition for those chilly nights.
- Massager for the calves, ankles, and feet
- Provides soothing warmth throughout all portions of the cuff
- Offers three massage modes, three intensities, and two levels of heat
- Non-digital handheld controller
Reathlete Leg Massager
A premium product with a price tag that reflects as much, the Reathlete Leg Massager is a full leg wrap with a heated component situated just in the knee portion. A backlit display makes it easy to program and adjust the intensity. Also included are extenders that increase the circumference serviceable by the thigh and calf wraps.
- Covers the feet, calves, ankles, and thighs, with additional extenders that increase the width
- Provides heat, but only at the knee joint
- Offers four massage modes and three varying intensities
- Backlit LED display on handheld controller
Answer: An air compression leg massager works well to address a plethora of lower extremity aches and pains, and with regular use, can soothe away any number of issues that may plague the lower extremities.
While not an exhaustive list, an air compression massager can aid in edema (swelling) reduction, signs and symptoms of varicose veins, poor circulation, and general muscle stiffness and soreness.
Also, for athletes, hastened muscle recovery is a wonderful benefit of regular massage. As is the case with any home medical equipment, be sure to check with your healthcare professionals before use.
Answer: While each specific manufacturer may have varying protocols about frequency (how often) and duration (how long) you can use their device, for the general user that’s without any serious health concerns or major circulatory concerns, three-to-five times a week at approximately 20-25 minutes is a good standard to follow.
Of course, should any discomfort arise, discontinue use and notify your health care professionals.
Answer: Not at all! Taking the design schematics of individual products into account, most air compression leg massagers can be worn in a sitting, reclining, or supine position. Products that encompass the thigh and ankle often are created with articulations via fabric cutaways that allow lower extremity movement.
Granted, you shouldn’t plan on being up and walking around while the massage is running (the length of the power cord would put a stop to this anyway), but there’s no reason you can’t relax in your favorite chair or on the couch while the cuffs work their magic.
It’s a Wrap
Some of the largest muscles in the human body are located in the lower extremities. Bigger muscles can also equate to more knots and areas of tenderness, resultant of the incessant wear-and-tear our lower limbs are subjected to day in and day out.
And when considering the prevalence of ankle and knee injuries that affect so many people, especially in their later years, infusing a self-care routine with an air compression leg massager can improve your legs’ abilities to keep you doing all the things you love to do.
If you are interested in other leg-related accessories that might be beneficial for you, check out our other guides on: