How to Use Compression Arm Sleeves
Helpful arm sleeve guidance and advice for active individuals.
There’s a good chance you’ve seen compression arm sleeves around, whether on a professional athlete, a long-distance runner, or even someone just wearing one during an everyday activity.
Fitting tightly on the arm like a second skin, compression sleeves give off a sleek athletic look.
But is there more to it than that?
There is! Lot’s more, in fact.
Compression sleeves are used for many different reasons in both the sports world and everyday life. They’re simple to use, relatively low in cost, and can offer the user a variety of benefits.
Here, we’ll teach you how to use a compression arm sleeve, what they can be used for, and how to get the most out of your sleeve.
Note: Featured products are independently selected and reviewed by Compression Athlete. If you purchase through our links, we may earn commission.
How to Wear Your Compression Arm Sleeve
To begin, let’s go over how to put on and wear your compression arm sleeve.
First, straighten out your sleeve on a flat surface or by holding it at both ends.
You should notice that one end of the sleeve is larger in diameter than the other.
The larger end of the sleeve is where you’ll first slide your hand through as you pull the sleeve up your arm.
Pull the larger end of the sleeve up your arm until it rests over your bicep.
The sleeve should be stretched full in length without any bunching and the smaller end of the sleeve resting at your wrist like the cuff of a shirt.
Think of it like adding a sleeve to a t-shirt in order to make a long-sleeve shirt.
If you were wearing a t-shirt, the compression sleeve would be pulled all the way up to the hem of your t-shirt sleeve and extend all the way down to your wrist. Thus, making a full-length sleeve.
Finally, compression sleeves are designed to be worn with the stitching on the inside part of your arm. Compression sleeves are relatively easy to adjust, so just be sure to line the seam up once it’s on.
For a point of reference, line the beginning of the seam up with the middle of your palm and continue upwards from there.
If it doesn’t look like an exact straight line all the way up your arm, this is normal. It will shape to the contour of your arm and a little wavering one way or the other is not a problem.
And if you're also looking to wear a leg sleeve, check out How to Use Compression Leg Sleeves.
How Do Compression Arm Sleeves Work?
Before you purchase or put on your compression arm sleeve for the first time, it can be helpful to have a good understanding of how exactly your sleeve works.
Understanding this aspect can positively inform your choice of compression sleeve, as well as how the sleeve is supposed to fit and feel on your arm.
In general, compression sleeves promote improved blood circulation from your body’s extremities by helping the applied muscles push blood back to your heart.
This, in turn, improves your body’s ability to pump oxygenated blood to your muscles. And with better muscle oxygenation, your muscles will perform better, endure longer, and recover faster.
But how exactly are compression arm sleeves able to do this?
Compression arm sleeves work thanks to a unique combination of fabric and design.
If you’ve ever worn a compression garment, then you’ve no doubt noticed its signature snug and stretchy fabric that fits like a second skin.
When compression garments fit correctly, they apply a slight degree of pressure to the applied area, which is the same case with compression sleeves.
In addition to their signature fabric, sleeves also utilize a special graduated compression design.
A graduated compression design applies compression to the applied area at a heavier to lighter degree. The heavier pressure is applied at the point furthest away from the heart, to promote circulation.
In the case of a compression arm sleeve, heavier pressure is applied at the wrist and forearm and gradually works toward lighter pressure at the bicep.
This combination of signature fabric and graduated design is what allows compression arm sleeves to work so effectively at improving circulation.
Beyond promoting blood flow, the design and fabric of compression sleeves also offer great support to the muscles where the sleeve is applied and can aid in injury prevention.
How Long Can You Wear Your Compression Arm Sleeve?
Whether you’re an athlete or just an active person, compression arm sleeves can offer helpful support and improved circulation for your athletic pursuits and everyday tasks.
Additionally, compression sleeves are also used by many to address medical conditions, such as orthostatic hypotension, arthritis, carpal tunnel syndrome, and more.
And when you find a high-quality, great-fitting compression arm sleeve, you likely not only don’t mind wearing it, but might even wonder if it’s okay to wear it all the time.
In general, it’s okay to wear a compression arm sleeve for extended periods. Athletes commonly wear compression arm sleeves for hours on end during competition and training.
Additionally, people commonly wear compression arm sleeves for extended periods during work and everyday tasks and activities.
If you’re going to wear a compression arm sleeve for an extended period, the most important factor to be aware of is the pressure level of your compression sleeve.
If your compression sleeve is from a reputable athletic brand, it more than likely falls within mild to moderate pressure levels and is absolutely fine to wear for extended use.
Simply look for a sleeve that fits correctly. You should feel slight pressure from the sleeve, but it should not restrict your movement or cause discomfort in any way.
Even sleeves with a mild compression level could end up causing problems if sized incorrectly.
A key aspect to look for in your compression sleeve is if it stays comfortably in place during activity and requires little adjustment.
Additionally, some people wonder about whether it is okay to wear a compression sleeve while sleeping.
Generally, yes, it would be okay to wear your compression sleeve while sleeping. However, it should be noted that there’s really no reason for doing so, unless you have been directed by your doctor.
It’s always a good idea to take a break and let the skin at the applied area breathe.
For those wearing a compression sleeve for a medical reason, always follow the advice of your physician or physical therapist.
Why Do People Use Compression Arm Sleeves?
Compression sleeves are worn for a variety of reasons and can have several different uses.
In general, compression arm sleeves are worn to improve or assist athletic performance and physical activity.
They can also be worn for injury prevention or to offer support and stabilization to an injured or sore muscle.
Compression arm sleeves are worn for these reasons and can also be utilized in various other ways, as well.
For example, compression arm sleeves are commonly used for added protection against scrapes, burns, and abrasions caused by physical contact, turf burn, UV rays, and more.
Some athletes even wear compression arm sleeves with an additional protective pad on the elbow if their sport includes more physical contact.
Whether in athletic competition or everyday tasks, compression arm sleeves offer overall protection without overheating or restricting your arm’s full range of motion.
Compression arm sleeves are also used to regulate body temperature.
In cold weather, the improved circulation from your compression arm sleeves help to keep your muscles warm.
In hot weather, compression arm sleeves do a great job of wicking away moisture to keep you cool, dry, and comfortable.
And while those unfamiliar with compression sleeves often assume that sleeves are worn simply for style or attention, ironically, improved visibility also happens to be a good reason to wear a compression arm sleeve.
For example, runners may choose to utilize compression arm sleeves with reflective elements for improved visibility in lowlight conditions.
Even in daylight, brightly colored compression arm sleeves will stand out much better to drivers and make for a safer run or workout.
Do Compression Arm Sleeves Really Work?
If you’ve tuned into a professional sporting event in the past several years, whether baseball, basketball, track and field, or so on, then you’ve no doubt noticed the presence of compression sleeves on athletes.
And despite their broad adoption across the world of sports and by many individuals for everyday use, there are some who are still skeptical as to whether compression sleeves really work.
Compression sleeves absolutely work so long as you understand their intended use, as well as their limitations.
For example, while a compression sleeve will offer muscle support and stabilization to the applied area, it will not make a sore muscle instantly feel better.
Likewise, a compression sleeve can help to bring out your best performance by improving blood flow in the applied area, but it will not make you stronger or faster by its mere application.
In other words, compression arm sleeves do not work miracles, but they do help to optimize both your performance and recovery.
We know that compression sleeves squeeze the blood vessels where applied, which increases blood flow, removes lactic acid build up, and makes for a speedier recovery.
We also know that compression fabric is stretchier and more durable than other fabrics, making it a great choice for lightweight and breathable protection that allows a full range of motion.
Compression sleeves are comfortable, easy to use, and have a lot to offer.
And if you're looking for a great arm sleeve, be sure to check out our list of the Best Compression Arm Sleeves.