Therapeutic compression bandaging is a very important topic and the subject of much debate within the health sector. In the previous blog post, we discussed bandage elasticity, and as we will see in this post, compression is one of the physically measurable parameters that characterize the elastic behavior that governs medical compression.
What is compression?
The dictionary tells us that compression is “pressure to which a body is subjected by the action of opposing forces that tend to reduce its volume.” If we apply this to the case of bandages, we are talking about the active action exerted by a bandage when it is applied to a limb by means of the action of the professional who performs the bandaging and/or the compression of the bandage itself.
In this definition can be found another basic concept necessary to understand bandage compression, which is that compression can be generated in two different ways: first, there is the compression generated by the health professional when applying the bandage and, second, the compression produced by the bandage itself due to the composition of its yarn.
If a health professional applies a compressive bandage that is not very elastic, but exerts pressure when doing so, this bandage will be a compression bandage where the pressure is exerted by the health professional.
If a health professional applies a bandage using hardly any pressure and stretching the bandage only 25%, with a bandage made of elastic and compressive yarn, the bandage will generate compression as time goes by because it will try to return to its initial length and will compress the bandaged area.
As we have seen, we are analyzing two very different bandages, but both generating compression.
While compression can be achieved with any type of bandage, if what we are looking for is a therapeutic effect, we must pay attention to two aspects. On the one hand, there are the laws of physics that govern it, such as Laplace’s Law (interface pressure) and Pascal’s Law (transmission of pressure to the subcutaneous tissue), which we will discuss in later blog posts. And on the other hand, there are the parameters that control it, such as elasticity, hysteresis and stiffness, which we will deal with in a very general way in this post.
Parameters governing medical compression
Compression in bandages is determined by the three parameters that govern it: elasticity, hysteresis and stiffness.