Leg compression machines, also known as leg compression sleeves or massagers, are devices that are used for regular sessions of compression therapy to improve blood circulation in your legs.
Leg compression machines are generally comprised of calf, thigh and foot cuffs that together fully enclose your legs, alongside a motor and a hose. This hose will connect the cuffs to the motor and will use air compression through the cuffs to massage the legs. In turn, this stimulates greater blood flow and greater fluid drainage.
This improved circulation has many health benefits, which we’ll look at below, and can help to accelerate the body’s natural healing processes after injury, surgery, or intense exercise.
Traditionally, leg compression sleeves are found in hospitals, physiotherapy practices and elite sports teams’ training facilities. However, nowadays you can buy home versions at a reasonable price, and these are what we will be looking at today.
Our Top Leg Compression Machines
- RENPHO Leg Massager (Our Top Pick)
- Fit King Leg Massager
- IKEEPI Leg Massager
- MagicMakers Foot and Leg Massager
Our Top Pick
We’ve found some really strong picks to include in our list of top leg compression machines. Though some have a few minor flaws, they are all incredibly well-designed, functional machines that are easy to use and will give you the standard of compression therapy that you want.
However, the number and quality of settings available with RENPHO, the quality of their design and manufacture, and the experience of using it give it a comfortable lead over any of their competitors.
Choosing The Best Leg Compression Machine
There are a few things that we’re looking for in leg compression machines.
Firstly, public opinion matters: all of the following have a plethora of positive reviews and feedback from across the web, with some products on our list boasting hundreds or even thousands of five-star reviews. With so many people attesting to their efficacy, each one is sure to give you the help you need. Secondly, expert feedback is vital alongside this. We have reviewed each of these products and delivered honest feedback based on our own professional opinions and experiences.
With these two conditions met, we will also be looking at two important things: cost and results. Can a machine deliver on its promise to improve blood flow and relax muscles, whilst being comfortable and easy to use? And can it do so without costing the Earth (most of the products on the list are around the hundred-dollar mark, or even slightly below- you can quite easily spend nearly a thousand dollars on similar products if you really want to!) All of the items on our list have been proven to work, are all easy and comfortable to use, and all charge a reasonable amount for what they do.
These really are some of the best leg compression machines that you can buy, and all deliver great value for money.
Best Leg Compression Machines
Our Top Pick:
The RENPHO leg massager comes with 4 modes and 4 different intensity levels. You get a handheld control to adjust them as you need. The machine and cuffs are fully adjustable to fit any size, and the adjustments are easily made with their well-designed Velcro straps. It’s easy to use on your arms, and it is also easy to isolate different parts of the lower body. The design is good, as is the build quality, and the machine has a built-in 20-minute auto shut off timer in case you fall asleep using it.
Just because the RENPHO leg massager owns the top spot, there are still plenty of other good options from which you can choose. Any one of the following leg compression machines will do you justice and give you a first class run of compression therapy:
The Fit King leg massager comes with 2 modes, 3 intensity levels and 10 different massage techniques, all easily controlled by a handheld device. You can get larger and adjustable sizes to the cuffs, meaning that larger and taller users can be safe and comfortable. It comes with a 24-month warranty.
The IKEEPI leg massager boasts a full six massage modes including automatic, knead, shiatsu, and relaxation. With this kind of range, it’s perfect for meeting diverse needs and keeping things a bit fresh.
The cuffs themselves are designed with all round airbags to thoroughly and comfortably squeeze and massage your calves, thighs and feet. IKEEPI’s six-valve setting is very well made and pretty advanced, especially on such a well-priced piece of kit. You get real-time control over the motions and intensities of the airbags, the whole design is ergonomic, and everything is fully adjustable, so that you can keep yourself comfortable and get the most out of every session.
Taller users might struggle with sizing with the conventional cuffs. However, the massagers themselves have very high-quality Velcro leg wraps that are incredibly comfortable and keep everything secure. Every mode does what it sets out to do: the relaxation mode will really soothe you (try not to fall asleep while using it) whilst the knead mode will really work you hard! Finally, there is a heat mode. It is more of a gentle warming, as it doesn’t get too hot, and will do wonders to relax your muscles and improve blood flow.
You get six different speed settings and three different massage modes with the MagicMakers massager, meaning that you should be able to find the intensity you want. This makes it especially good for beginners to massage therapy, as you can increase the intensity by small increments. The machine itself is well made and of good quality, with three heat settings and comfortable cuffs.
How Do Leg Compression Machines Work?
Leg compression machines make use of peristaltic pulses- alternating contractions and relaxations in the muscles. The air pumped through the leg cuffs creates these contractions, and the motion helps the lymphatic and cardiovascular systems to remove metabolic waste more efficiently.
In athletes, this process speeds up recovery. Lactic acid, a by-product of intense training and a leading contributor to post-workout fatigue, is removed more quickly. The improved blood flow will also deliver much needed nutrients and oxygen to the muscles, further aiding their recovery.
The same holds for people recovering from surgery, as toxins and lactic build ups are flushed away and nutrients are brought in. Injuries and surgery often bring about a large degree of inflammation, which compression therapy has been shown to diminish.
There is little by way scientific consensus on leg compression machines’ efficacy, though there is some strong support to show that blood flow is indeed improved, and that inflammation is decreased, in the compressed area.
Benefits of Using Leg Compression Machines
It might be clear by now that leg compression machines give you essentially a rudimentary massage.
Anyone who has had a good massage at the end of a really stressful period or day will tell you how relaxing and reinvigorating the experience can be.
If you don’t have the time or the budget to get massages every other day, leg compression machines are a fantastic alternative. They will give you many of the benefits you might associate with a massage, including:
- Improved circulation in targeted areas. This is one of the main aspects of a massage that will alleviate the heaviness and stiffness we all feel when we’re stressed, injured or tired. Improved blood circulation relaxes the muscles and speeds up healing from injuries and fatigue. This is especially useful if you’re an athlete, as the constant muscular traumas you put yourself through are dealt with and recovered from far more efficiently.
- Relief from other aches and pains. If you’re not an athlete, but suffer from aches and pains in general, you could benefit from compression therapy. There are many health conditions and injuries that bring a great deal of discomfort and inflammation to muscles and soft tissue. A leg compression machine will help to diminish these symptoms and enable you to recover more ably, all from the comfort of your own home. You will find improved mobility and decreased inflammation with regular leg compression machine use.
- Combatting lymphedema. It will also help to decrease swelling from certain conditions, like lymphedema, where medical interventions in the form of drugs like warfarin either need complementing or are not an option, or if you simply want to find a non-invasive therapy. Leg compression machines keep lymph flow consistently circulating, stopping it from building up into lymphedema. Your body as a whole will benefit from this process, and toxins and metabolic waste will be more consistently flushed out.
Leg compression and deep vein thrombosis (DVT)
Those at risk of developing a deep vein thrombosis (DVT) may need to use leg compression machines. This use will traditionally have been conducted in a clinical setting. However, with the current availability of at-home kits, you could simply order yourself an item from our list and do it all from your living room.
Anything that drastically limits blood flow will contribute to an increased likelihood of DVT development. These factors include:
- Mobility impeding medical conditions like arthritis, stroke or recent injury
- Extended periods of travel in which you remain mostly immobile
- Recent surgery, which will both inhibit your mobility and increase inflammation in the body
- Injury or trauma to a deep vein
- Health conditions and inherited disorders that increase blood clotting
- Certain cancer treatments
- Lifestyle factors like smoking, drinking, excess salt intake and obesity
- Old age
Whilst blood-thinning medicines such as aspirin or warfarin may work better than compression machines as a treatment for people who are at risk of developing a DVT, or who already have one, they come with their own risks. They make it hard for your blood to clot at all, meaning that you are at risk of bleeding, and they may have unintended consequences on other areas of your body
A leg compression machine may be the answer, giving you relief from DVT without any negative or harsh side effects. Alternatively, it could be a great accompaniment to blood thinners, helping your blood flow better through both medical and mechanical means.
Leg Compression Machines: Frequently Asked Questions
Are there any side effects when using a leg compression machine?
There shouldn’t be- it is essentially just a massage, after all. However, there are some precautions to bear in mind when you’re using leg compression machines.
There can be a degree of discomfort when you first start using them, as with a massage. The pressure, some chafing, and irritation and perspiration from the cuffs can all be quite uncomfortable for beginners. Some users have also experienced an increase in body temperature and excess blood flow to the skin.
Extended periods of use can also lead to nerve damage or pressure damage to the skin, though this is incredibly rare and shouldn’t happen if the cuffs are at an appropriate tightness, rather than being too tight.
To avoid these side effects, keep the cuffs at a comfortable compression and use for shorter intervals, keeping to ten-minute bursts for the first few sessions.
How often can you use leg compression machines?
This is entirely dependent on you and your own personal circumstances, though best results in most cases come from daily use at about 20-30 minutes. This can, of course, be split into shorter sessions if it’s more comfortable for you, especially at the beginning.
It’s always best to consult your doctor before beginning, however, as they will have greater insight into your particular condition and circumstances. They will be able to better advise you on your use of the leg compression machine.
Does compression therapy really work?
Yes, it does. It’s great for those suffering from poor circulation or deep vein thrombosis and will generally speed up recovery in athletes. However, it’s not a cure-all: it may be best used in conjunction with relevant medication, and your doctor will obviously be best placed to advise you in this regard.
If you have found that you benefit from massages at all, however, you will likely respond very well to compression therapy.
Who shouldn’t use a leg compression machine?
It may be best to avoid leg compression machines if you have any injuries, infected wounds or skin irritations in the affected areas. If you have had recent surgery, have a severe heart condition or blood clotting in your legs, it may also be inappropriate to use them. However, it is always best to consult your healthcare provider before using a leg compression machine.
Does compression help with cellulite?
It may well do. The improved lymphatic drainage that leg compression and massage bring about may help to reduce cellulite. Compression therapy can also help to stretch and improve elasticity in your skin, further reducing the visibility of cellulite.
Leg compression machines are growing ever more popular as people get into health and fitness, and as the technology behind them improves and the cost and availability make them more viable to have at home. If you suffer from any of the health conditions mentioned above, or if your healthcare provider recommends regular massages or compression therapy, they are a great option. If you train athletically to a high intensity, they can also help to speed up recovery and reduce fatigue symptoms in your legs. We have gathered some of the best commercially available leg compression machines into our list. Any one of them will serve you well if you think that you could benefit from regular compression therapy.