TPTEX: DEVELOPMENT OF A THERAPEUTIC TEXTILE TO PREVENT PATHOLOGIES ASSOCIATED WITH THE LOWER LIMBS

by Beatriz Domenech

R+D Projects

20th of February 2020

Health is a very important aspect of people’s lives and the TPTex project aims to improve health through the relationship between textiles and physical activity in diseases that require compression stockings in the lower limbs.
Its basic goals within the first year of study were:

– To study the needs of people with lipids in terms of therapeutic compression leggings, as well as the needs of athletes when recovering from long-distance races.

– To create compressive textile substrates to improve of lower limb pathologies, related to the accumulation of fat (lipedema) or lymph (lymphedema).

– To create compressive textile substrates to improve muscular and metabolic function after long distance races that take the human body to the metabolic and muscular limit.

Thus, two different lines have been researched, both related to compressive weaving.

Regarding the first line of action, lipedema is a chronic and degenerative disease, characterised by the accumulation of adipose tissue in the legs, affecting 16% of women. It leads to pain and sensitivity, as well as a tendency to bruise easily due to capillary fragility.
Most doctors are unaware of this disease as it was not recognised by the World Health Organisation (WHO) until 8 May 2018.

The treatment of lipedema is fundamentally conservative, based on hygienic-dietary measures (healthy lifestyle, weight loss and physical exercise) and the use of compressive therapy. Hence the importance of this project.

The project developed a collection of compression garments to aid an athlete’s recovery after strenuous exercise. Faster post-competition recovery enables training to resume earlier, increasing long-term performance. Most studies carried out so far have analysed the influence of compression garments during recovery in laboratory conditions or simulated competitions, but not during real races. It should be noted that in a previous AITEX project (PREVENTEX 2018), recovery was analysed, but only in a sample of 5 participants, identifying lines to be further developed and researched, but providing no conclusive data, hence this project.

In the first phase of the project, compression fabrics were developed using flat and circular weaving to evaluate breathability, drying time, elasticity and composition, so that compression garment prototypes could be developed in the second phase of development and evaluated by a panel of expert users.

tptex 1

After laboratory analysis and the opinion of expert users of compression garments, the fabrics which would be used to develop the initial prototypes were defined:

– Prototype flat fabric (0702): composition 72% polyamide, 2% elastane, 26% elastic thread (elastic core covered with polyamide)

– Circular knitting prototypes:
– CAMICN: a normal microfibre channel, 17% Lycra and 83% polyamide
– TRCMICN: a normal microfibre weave, 22% Lycra and 78% polyamide.
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Once selected, compression garments were developed using flat-weave and circular-weave technology in different sizes. It is worth mentioning that this is a first approximation and that in the following year of the project, improvements will be introduced by technical finishes, and standard sizes will be designed.

Several expert user panels have been set up to validate the prototypes:
A panel of expert users of compression leggings evaluated the flat-weave compression garment, which was the most suitable and most in line with the specifications of a doctor specialising in the pathology.
The panel consisted of a pre measurement, followed by a 6-week Nordic Walking training program, followed up by a post measurement to evaluate differences between pre and post results among a sample group with lipedema and a control group without the pathology. Both measurements consisted of thermography of the lower limbs, analysis of the movement of the ankle, knee and hip joint range, measurement of balance and pressure distribution, volumetry, walking speed and a quality of life scale. The most interesting results revealed that patients with lipedema show a general decrease in the surface temperature of the lower limbs after a light walk. This thermal behaviour differs from the thermal behaviour of healthy participants. After the training programme, it was found that all participants walk at a higher speed, with higher angle values in the lower limb joints.

tptex 2

On the other hand, validation was carried out in compressive garments for an athlete’s recovery. In this case, after a 107 km trail, 5600 meters of positive and 4400 meters of negative accumulated height gain, two groups of runners were used, one group wearing the recovery compression leggings for 24 hours after the race, and another control group that did not use recovery leggings.

Biomarkers of blood analysis and comfort, fatigue and pain analysis were analysed. The results of fatigue and pain were highlighted, where the group that used the compression leggings presented a general pain of one point below the group that did not use the compression leggings. Additionally, all users reported good comfort and that they would use the recovery leggings in the future.

Conclusions

– Lipedema requires compression leggings and physical exercise for successful treatment.
– Three types of compression stockings were obtained for validation (Flat 0702, circular CAMICN, and circular TRMICN).
The user panel concluded in the opinion surveys that the circular fabrics are very soft and comfortable, but that they do not give the impression of reaching the required levels of compression. As for the flat-woven legging, it was felt to be a little rough, with a very coarse seam. Further research is needed on both garments.
– Compression leggings for recovery after strenuous exercise reduce pain after 24 hours of use compared to the group that did not use compression leggings during those 24 hours.

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