Pants With Built In Joint Support

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Disclaimer: Shortly after writing this article I received an athletic sponsorship from CW-X. For more information about my climbing journey visit JasmineClimbs.

The CW-X compression tights are by far my favorite piece of clothing! Before I found them,  I had to apply kinesiology (KT) tape every single time  I exercised. The continuous taping was a huge hassle. Especially since I’m allergic to adhesives. The CW-X tights mimic the taping pattern I used on my knees.  They also provide additional support for the hips, pelvis, and sacroiliac joints. With Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome (EDS), products with maximal widespread joint support are always the ideal!

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The zebra is the EDS mascot. I stumbled upon this mural at Brooklyn Boulder’s climbing gym in Chicago, IL.

These tights allow me to participate in activities I otherwise wouldn’t be able to do without using bulky braces. Before I continue, remember that every EDSer’s ratio of ligament laxity to muscle strength is different and I can only give you information based on my personal experience.  I have extreme ligamentous laxity, moderate fascial laxity and very tight muscles.  For me, the tights prevent subluxations at the kneecaps by facilitating proper kneecap tracking. They don’t prevent full dislocations at the knee or hip joint, but they make them less likely to occure by properly supporting the muscles.

When using these tights, I experience increased proprioceptive feedback from my muscles. Using the tights increase both my balance and strength.

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I’ve found that rock climbing is one of the only activities aside from swimming that doesn’t cause me increased pain and dislocations. The only danger is rolling an ankle on the squishy gym mats… the irony of EDS. Warning: if your tissues easily tear please don’t try this.

 What makes these tights so special?

The fabric is a true compression garment. The orientation of the compression is specifically oriented perpendicular to the contraction of muscle belly. This type of compression, helps makes up for the laxity  in the fascia of EDS patients. I think the directionallity of the compression is what makes these tights unique and incredibly effective!

Proprioceptive Benefits: The increased pressure from the tights provides more than muscle support, as they also supports proper function of the nervous system. Extra input signals are delivered to the nervous system through the tightness and orientation of the  fibers. This information enhances the bodies proprioceptive and sensory feedback mechanisms.

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diagram by CW-x

You can learn more about how the tights work by checking out the CW-X website in the following link,  “How It Works”.

The large lines on the fabric are much more than a fancy design.”The Patented CW-X Support Web™ technology mimics kinesiology-taping techniques that trainers apply to injured muscles. When this technology is applied to muscles and joints it creates an exoskeletal support system that improves biomechanics during motion.” The tights can literally act as an external ligament!

Nerd Alert: Thinking about the science behind CW-X

Without the proper supporting tissues, forces generated inside an EDSers muscle are not as effective as in healthy individuals. Aside from the laxity of the laxity of the ligaments, the surrounding fascial webs of connective tissue may also be effected. Using these tights to increase the pressure around the muscles can help compensate for loose fascia by  bringing the layers of muscle closer together. Muscles are surrounded by three supporting layers all made up of connective tissue, the epimysium, perimysium, and endomysium. This explains why the muscles in some forms of EDS are physiologically altered and can contribute to trouble with motion. The goal of a muscle is to effectively transfer forces generated by individual sarcomeres, the structural unit of the myofibril, in order to collectively  produce movement of the skeleton.  In EDS, the laxity of the tissue means that these supporting layers are not held together tightly. Thus, the initial force generated inside a sarcomere has to be transferred across a greater distance and is given a greater chance for energy to be lost during the process. This leads to a less efficient muscular system where a greater initial force is needed to create the same output of power as in a healthy individual.  There may be other ways that the muscles in EDS behave differently, and this is just a prediction based on a general understanding of physics. In the future, we will learn more about the muscles of EDS when more data and medical research is collected. For now, there is a major lack of understand regarding the genetics behind EDS and until all the genes can be elucidated there isn’t a way to study these matters in depth .

How do I know which version to purchase?

There are several different versions of the tights. I highly recommend the most supportive form. They are labeled as endurance generator. With the broad laxity of our joints, I think this pair is necessary for most people with EDS. The stabilyx version is significantly cheaper, but they are made out of a thinner material than endurance generator and offer less support for the hips and pelvis.

What activities can I use my tights for?

They are marketed towards runners and endurance athletes. However, for many of us, walking is essentially an endurance sport, so the purpose remains the same. You can use them as a substitute for braces. They can increase performance and tolerance for many activities.  I’ve used my tights for the following reasons:

  • Walking
  • Hiking
  • Indoor rock climbing…in fact,I only climb with my tights on!

What conditions do the tights help with?

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Sometimes my shoulder gets stuck like this for days following a dislocation… I hope CW-X shirts are coming soon!
  • instability of the sacroiliac joint
  • instability of the kneecap
  • inappropriate tracking of the kneecap
  • proprioceptive feedback issue
  • general muscle imbalance and weakness of the lower limbs

In addition to supporting the musculoskeletal system, proper compression wear can help with the following conditions associated with EDS.

  • POTS
  • dysmotility

Why should I spend so much money on a pair of pants?

  • They are extremely durable and last after many washes. Mine have lasted well over a year, even with climbing and washing them weekly!  After about a year of weekly washing they start to loose some compression strength, but are still much more beneficial than any other form of athletic clothing marketed as compression wear.
  • If the pants help you get stronger and become more functional, that’s something you can’t put a price on!
  • If you’re regularly taping your kneecaps, these tights will save you time, energy and  money.
  • They can replace the need for an SI belt and bulky knee braces
  • They are multifunctional and can also be used as compression tights for POTS

You can think about these tights in terms of being a brace, as opposed to a piece of clothing!

What are the downsides to using these tights with EDS?

  • If you are sensitive to elastic, you may find them to be painful when sitting. The top elastic band sits high up above the hips in order to support the pelvis. When sitting the elastic digs into the skin of the waste. Note that this is coming from someone who has never been able to tolerate even a regular pair of tights. Most people have no complaints. This is an EDS problem.
  • With EDS you may also have an overactive bladder. The pressure on the bladder could cause increased urination.
  • If you have significant dysmotility or  constipation you may not be able to tolerate the compression at the waste. I have both of these issues and and can still wear them most  of the time when I’m not in a flare up.

I hope this article helps you determine if these pants will be able to help you too!

 

4 comments

  1. Hi!
    These look tempting! 🙂 I’m trying to work out if they would be suitable for me, and I’ve got a few questions:
    1. How hard on the hands is it to pull them up? I have compressive knee supports that help my knees, but I find that pulling them up hurts my thumbs too much. (I injured my MCP joints last year)
    2. Is there any danger that if I put them on wrong, or they slide down or something, then they’ll press on the wrong places and do more harm than good?

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    1. 1. I’ve had my worst thumb dislocations related to pants in general so I understand your concern! There’s a way my OT showed me to put on these type of things without thumb problems. It requires patience maybe you could look into that, but I must say getting them off is even worse for the thumbs than getting them on!
      2. I’m not at all qualified to answer this question but I will give you the information I know from personal experience… I think the risk is low since the compression is only supportive and there’s nothing forceful. Also one of the main reasons I love these pants is because they pretty much stay in place all day long and tend not to slide around at all like other compression wear. The material is special in a way where it feels like the pants are actually attached to the body.

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  2. Thanks for getting back to me! 🙂 It’s definitely good you news that they don’t slide down. Now I just have to see if somebody can help me to get out of them at the end of the day!

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