How Tight Should A Compression Sleeve Be?

Written By on January 31, 2021 — Medically Reviewed By Kristopher Ceniza

Written by on January 31, 2021 — Medically Reviewed By: Kristopher Cenzia

Arguably the most important thing to keep in mind for your knee compression sleeve, is the sizing.

There are consequences to having your knee compression sleeve too tight, but you can lose the benefits completely if you go too far in the other direction.

Related: Best Knee Sleeve Arthritis

Here we will ensure that you find the right size for you by outlining;

  • How to size your compression sleeve
  • How tight should your knee compression sleeve be?
  • How long should you wear your compression sleeve?
  • How do I know if my compression sleeve is too tight?

Sizing your compression sleeve

man running with red hood jacket and a compression sleeve in his knees

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Knee sleeves come in different thicknesses. The lighter 3mm sleeves are good for athletes in endurance sports and training.

5mm sleeves are more general, appropriate for long-distance running, walking, gymnastics, and general gym use. They’ll work for training where both agility and support are required of the athlete and are more flexible than 7mm sleeves.

7mm sleeves are ideal for heavier activities since they’re tougher. These are the most common sleeves for any kind of weightlifting or and weight training.

Knee Force Knee Sleeve

While picking the correct thickness is fairly easy, finding the right size knee sleeve for you can be a bit tricky. Many people mistakingly think that if knee sleeves feel tight, they’re not the right size.

But in actuality, they should be snug. How else can they give you the support and compression you need? Loose or baggy knee sleeves will lose all benefits of compression.

However, they should never pinch or cut off your circulation.

Thankfully, there’s a specific way to measure yourself for knee sleeves. When measuring yourself for knee sleeves, make sure your knee is slightly bent. This is how you measure yourself for knee sleeves.

Find the spot 10cm below your patella. Wrap a piece of string around this part of your calf. Using your ruler, measure the length of the string. Match it with the appropriate size.

If you’re caught in between two sizes a good rule of thumb is to go with the smaller size. When it comes to knee sleeves, tighter is commonly better.

Frequently asked questions

How tight should an elbow compression sleeve be?

men playing basketball with elbow compression sleeves and knee compression sleeves

It is extremely important to find the right size compression elbow sleeves for you. It is one of the most important aspects, even before you consider your purchase.

But how tight should your elbow sleeve be? You will need a snug fit, however, if the elbow sleeve is too tight then it can have the opposite effect on your recovery.

A compression sleeve that is too tight can act to restrict flow and also your movement.

On the other side of the scale, the sleeve should not be too loose either. This will mean that you are missing out on the benefits of the compression.

It then begs the question how do you find the right fit? The perfect size is comfortable, breathes, but is also not restricting.

The best way to find the correct sizing for your elbow compression sleeve is as follows;

Locate a measuring tape to get you started
Extend one arm fully and measure around the elbow
You might not need to perform the steps for the other arm unless you absolutely need to confirm fit
If you think you’ll need a tighter fit than what the measurements say, you can always go down one size

How tight should compression knee sleeves be?

men playing basketball wearing orange shorts, dribbling the ball, wearing compression knee sleeves

One of the best things that you can have, both for injury recovery and weightbearing sports, such as weightlifting, is a compression knee sleeve.

These knee compression sleeves are designed to provide the perfect amount of support, protection from injury, compression and warmth to the knee area.

It also allows you the flexibility to ensure that you are still able to exercise effectively.

They can be used for any kind of sporting activity where a knee support can protect the joint and avoid injury.

Knee compression sleeves can be very useful for sporting people such as powerlifters. It means that you have the ability to lift heavy weights and squat with additional support to reduce the chance of injury.

Knee sleeves are supposed to be tight, but not to the point where it cuts off your circulation or impedes your movement in any way.

It must be tight enough to offer the compression benefits but, as with elbow compression sleeves, not tight enough to feel a pinch or restrict blood flow.

Knee Force Knee Sleeve

To get the most out of your knee sleeves, it’s important to know you’re using them right.

How long should you wear a compression sleeve?

man running wearing gray shorts and white shirt with knee brace compression sleeves

A compression sleeve will have significant effects on recovery after regular use over a 3-6 month period. This can differ due to the extent of your injury and the estimated recovery time as given by your doctor or health care profesional.

As for the time for day that it should be worn, compression sleeves should be worn as often as possible.

They should especially be used during physical activity, including exercise and sports, to reduce your risk of reinjury. This is very important for your recovery and also to provide added support to the injured joint.

Another time of the day where it is very beneficial to wear your compression sleeve is at night while you are sleeping.

As we move during the night, our injured joint can become vulnerable and constant movement can be uncomfortable. It may cause you to wake over and over again as well as cause additional injury.

Using your compression sleeve at night will help to support and keep the injured limb in place so that can reduce discomfort and pain. This will in turn allow you a better nights sleep.

All in all, the compression sleeve should be worn daily and for as long as you are able. This may be dependant on factors such as the weather, as heat can cause sweating and discomfort.

They can be used in conjunction with prescription medications, physical therapy, recovery exercises and stretching.

By combining a range of different recovery techniques you can speed up the healing process and hopefully reduce the amount of time it is necessary to wear the compression sleeve.

How do I know if my compression is too tight?

lady wearing orange and red dress and a doctor doing a check up on the knees

Generally, if your compression sleeve is too tight there will be a few signs to look out for.

Firstly, you will feel a pinching sensation and find that blood flow to the compressed area is significantly reduced. Blood will pool outside fo the compression sleeve and leave the limb feeling numb.

If this occurs you should remove the compression garment immediately and purchase a new one in the correct size.

If you are between sizes it is often recommended that you opt for the one that is smaller rather than larger. If the compression garment is too loose then it will lose all of the compression benefits.

If the tightness is not quite as noticeable, you may find that there is a distinct impression in your skin where the compression sleeve was positioned.

This would indicate that the sleeve was slightly too tight for the area and the effects can worsen gradually if you continue to use it.

Keep in mind that if the compression sleeve is fairly new, and especially if you were between sizes, then it should stretch through the course of your recovery and become more comfortable.

Mitch Torres (PT)
Mitch is a physical therapist, personal trainer, and nutrition coach. Fascinated with the knee joint, Mitch poured that passion into writing about knee pain and how to overcome it with movement. His goal is to teach you how to apply this knowledge into your daily life, so you can keep knee pain away for good.