October 28th, 2013
Tommie Copper, maker of copper-infused compression clothing, claims its products actually help “you feel better and live positively.” How do they do so? “Activated copper is at the core of every TC garment. By a proprietary process, it is permanently and densely infused into all performance yarns, releasing ions that provide anti-microbial protection, skin benefits and help you feel better.”
How do these claims stack up? Can copper-infused compression sleeves actually help you feel better and ease joint pain?
In short, probably not. There’s some science behind some of these ideas, but we suspect it has been overstated.
First: Copper, which really does not play well with bacteria, has been used to ward off icky things since ye olden days. Early seafarers figured out they could sheath their ships’ bottoms with copper to prevent sea stuff from growing on them. In modern times, studies have found that copper surfaces do kill bacteria, as much as 99.9% in two hours.
Second: Compression also has medical uses. The elderly and people who spend a lot of time on their feet use compression stockings to aid leg circulation (though these compression stockings, which squeeze much harder than the stuff you can pick up at the mall, are usually available only with a prescription). As for the popular workout gear, there is some evidence that compression gear can improve recovery between workouts, though there is not much evidence to support the notion that compression gear aids performance or helps with joint pain.
So it seems possible that copper-infused compression clothing could help you recover from a tough workout, and it’s also possible it could have some anti-bacterial properties in clothes. But as for the claims in the infomercial about relieving joint pain and helping with everyday aches — any relief from copper-compression seems more likely to be a placebo effect than anything else. Think carefully before shelling out for Tommie Copper.