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The ability to simulate the body’s own blood pumping action separates the Normatec MVP Recovery System from a compression garment.
Blood loses almost all of the momentum created by the heart after it passes through ultra-fine capillaries—the tiny vessels that deliver blood directly to the muscles. To return to the heart, venous blood relies on an entirely different type of pump to cycle back through the body.
Muscle contraction and one-way valves in the veins create a natural pumping mechanism, in which leg muscles play the role of the heart. Engaging this system, however, requires activity. The MVP ($1,650, Normatecrecovery.com) is designed to mimic this pumping action while lying on the couch. Here’s how it works.
The Body’s Muscle Pump
Muscle contraction squeezes veins and pushes blood out in both directions.
The one-way valve beneath the contracting muscle stops fluid from moving toward the feet, and the valve above the muscle allows blood to pass.
Every muscle contraction—including a stride or step—pumps a little blood past the valve above it and back toward the heart.
Compression garments put pressure on the same blood vessels and reduce the opportunity for fluid to pool in the legs, but do not simulate the squeeze-and-release pattern of body’s own fluid cycling mechanism, the muscle pump. “How Normatec actually compresses—the pulsing, releasing and holding—might seem random, but that’s our patented technology,” says CEO Gilad Jacobs.
Normatec’s pumping action
1. The MVP starts its cycle, called Sequential Pulse Technology, by palpitating only the lowest chamber around the foot and ankle.
2. After completing a round of pulses, it holds constant pressure in the first chamber and pulses the second, which surrounds the lower calf.
3. While holding those two lower segments with constant pressure, the third chamber begins to fire, further driving fluids up toward the heart. Maintaining pressure beneath the pumping segment “simulates the one-way valves” by helping prevent blood from flowing away from the heart, says Jacobs.
4. For the fourth step in the sequence, pressure around the foot is relaxed while the chamber around the lower thigh pulses and the two calf segments hold constant pressure. Releasing the pressure on the lower portions “draws a rush of good blood flow back into the area,” says Jacobs.
5. Up one more level, the upper thigh pulses while the two adjacent pieces hold firm.
The final phase sees the two thigh segments hold constant pressure while the rest of the system relaxes. Then the pattern starts again.
The system is fairly large, but not unmanageable. Assembly and setup is incredibly simple: Plug the hose into the pump unit and the unit into a wall outlet. Press a single button and the system starts working. Sensors gauge the air pressure in each chamber to tailor the program to every individual leg shape and size, and a longer-leg version is available for those taller than 6’1”.
Dr. Jeffrey Sankoff, Triathlete’s medical advisor, says the benefit of pneumatic compression boots has not yet been validated by independent research. Testers, however, unanimously agreed that their legs felt fresher after a Normatec session.
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