The Actual Science Behind Some of Today’s Biggest Wellness Trends
A closer look at copper, cryotherapy, compression, and float tanks
Every year, it seems, something new comes along promising to decrease our pain and stress while improving mood and sleep. Almost as quickly as these magical fixes arrive on the scene, many of them disappear — either because they lose their novelty and notoriety, or because they are displaced by the next great hope.
From copper bracelets to spinal braces, oxygen bars to cryo spas, soak tanks to you name it, there is no shortage of “wellness products” that enter with a splash and exit with a whimper, promising to make quick work of complicated problems. Whether they deliver the promised benefit oftentimes remains an open question.
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The science of copper and compression
Products containing copper, specifically those which also provide compression, have become ubiquitous. They include copper socks, sleeves, and braces claiming to get you back in the game or even improve athletic performance.
Worn just above the calves, compression socks are believed to improve blood vessel efficiency. In a February 2015 study on compression socks, marathon runners who wore them for 48 hours after an event performed better on treadmill tests two weeks later when compared to a placebo group. Another study in February 2019 of elite volleyball players suggests compression socks can ease the stressors of long-haul travel. While claims of improved athletic performance remain unverified, the likelier scenario remains: Compression clothing, specifically socks, may help in recovery, even weeks after endurance events.
When it comes to compression back braces, however, claims of improved athletic performance as well as enhanced recovery remain unverified. Bracing of any kind is typically done to limit range of motion and provide stability after an injury. There’s also a specified duration for using most braces, typically four…