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J Neurophysiol. 2018 Jul 1;120(1):186-195. doi: 10.1152/jn.00581.2017. Epub 2018 Apr 11.

Effects of a compression garment on sensory feedback transmission in the human upper limb.

Barss TS1,2,3, Pearcey GEP1,2,3, Munro B4, Bishop JL4, Zehr EP1,2,3,5.

Author information

Rehabilitation Neuroscience Laboratory, University of Victoria , Victoria, British Columbia , Canada.
Human Discovery Science, International Collaboration on Repair Discoveries (ICORD) , Vancouver, British Columbia , Canada.
Centre for Biomedical Research, University of Victoria , Victoria, British Columbia , Canada.
Nike Sport Research Lab, Nike Exploration Team, NIKE Inc. , Beaverton, Oregon.
Division of Medical Sciences, University of Victoria , Victoria, British Columbia , Canada.


Compression apparel is popular in both medical and sport performance settings. Perceived benefits are suggested to include changes in sensory feedback transmission caused by activation of mechanoreceptors. However, little is known about effects of compression apparel on sensorimotor control. Our purpose was to mechanistically examine whether compression apparel modulates sensory feedback transmission and reaching accuracy in the upper limb. Two experiments were completed under CONTROL and COMPRESSION (sleeve applied across the elbow joint) conditions. M-waves and H-reflexes were elicited by stimulating the median nerve and were recorded via surface electromyography (EMG). In experiment 1, H-reflexes and M-H recruitment curves were assessed at REST, during wrist flexion (10% EMGmax), and during a cutaneous conditioning of the superficial radial (SR) or distal median (MED) nerve. Cutaneous reflexes were elicited during 10% wrist flexion via stimulation of SR or MED. In experiment 2, unconditioned H-reflex measures were assessed at rest, during arm cycling, and during a discrete reaching task. Results indicate that compression apparel modulates spinal cord excitability across multiple sensory pathways and movement tasks. Interestingly, there was a significant improvement in reaching accuracy while wearing the compression sleeve. Taken together, the compression sleeve appears to increase precision and sensitivity around the joint where the sleeve is applied. Compression apparel may function as a "filter" of irrelevant mechanoreceptor information allowing for optimal task-related sensory information to enhance proprioception. NEW & NOTEWORTHY Wearing a customized compression sleeve was shown to alter the excitability of multiple pathways within the central nervous system regardless of conditioning input or movement task and was accompanied by improved accuracy of reaching movements and determination of movement end point. Compression apparel may assist as a type of "filter function" of tonic and nonspecific mechanoreceptor information leading to increased precision and movement sensitivity around the joint where compression is applied.


H-reflex; afferent feedback; compression; conditioning; cutaneous; electromyography; proprioception

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