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What are Compression Shorts?

Michael Pollick
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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During many athletic activities, the muscles of the groin and thighs often rub together, causing the sciatic nerve along the outer thigh to become irritated and the surrounding skin to chafe. Separating and compressing the groin and thigh muscles seems to provide relief from these problems, however. Compression shorts are specially constructed from nylon and Lycra® to provide support for the waist, groin and thighs during physical activity.

Perhaps the most recognized use of compression shorts is among professional bicyclists. The tight-fitting biker's shorts which extend from the waist to mid-thigh provide separation of the groin and thigh muscles through compression. Similar shorts for other sports are based on this same principle. The nylon fabric provides a cool, comfortable fit while the lycra provides enough elasticity to compress and separate the muscles. Some compression shorts are also designed to wick away excess sweat, which should reduce chafing and overheating.

Some athletes believe that compression shorts provide a performance advantage, because the hamstrings and other thigh muscles used for power are held under uniform compression. This is preferable to energy lost through wasted motion and vibrations. If the groin muscles are kept separate from the thigh muscles, friction and other momentum-robbing factors are also reduced. There is little scientific proof of such advantages, but many professional athletes prefer to wear them during competition.

Compression shorts are often suggested to those who suffer from a form of back pain called sciatica. The sciatic nerve runs along the outer thigh and can be irritated during exercise. Many sufferers find relief from sciatic nerve pain while wearing compression shorts under their normal workout gear. Many non-athletes also find that these garments provide support to the groin area, reducing the chances of injury while biking or using training equipment.

Some compression shorts also include a protective cup for male athletes or additional groin support for females. There are also compression shirts for the support of the upper torso and back muscles. The fit should be snug but not overly constrictive. A good pair of compression shorts should form a noticeable gap between the thighs and groin area. Look for a higher percentage blend of Lycra® if more support is needed. Some also provide odor protection, so consult the label for a complete list of benefits.

The Health Board is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Michael Pollick
By Michael Pollick , Writer
As a frequent contributor to The Health Board, Michael Pollick uses his passion for research and writing to cover a wide range of topics. His curiosity drives him to study subjects in-depth, resulting in informative and engaging articles. Prior to becoming a professional writer, Michael honed his skills as an English tutor, poet, voice-over artist, and DJ.

Discussion Comments

By anon966456 — On Aug 20, 2014

I just wear them under my soccer shorts, but a friend also wears a pair of speedos underneath.

By anon162527 — On Mar 23, 2011

Don't wear underwear underneath. just wear the compression shorts as underwear.

By anon156536 — On Feb 27, 2011

I wear compression shorts as underwear, especially when swimming.

By anon153250 — On Feb 16, 2011

just slap them on like boxers and you're good to go. it sure helps hip flexor problems like after surgeries and intense tears.

By anon147765 — On Jan 30, 2011

Love them, keep you from swinging around, don't have to worry about your shorts riding up when you're doing ground work. No flashing your junk, they keep you warm in the freezing cold boxing gym until you're warmed up and you don't stink as much. All hail the underwear!

By anon104754 — On Aug 18, 2010

Do you wear compression shorts with boxers underneath or not?

By anon93224 — On Jul 02, 2010

i can use compression shorts instead bicycle shorts?

By anon89246 — On Jun 09, 2010

I sweat quite a lot on my buttocks and back when i play basketball, and the sweat soaks through my pants and shirt. Does compression clothing somewhat block sweat from getting to my clothes? Because it is really embarrassing when there are huge sweat spots on my arse and back when i play.

By anon86801 — On May 26, 2010

Do you wear underwear under compression shorts?

By anon72334 — On Mar 22, 2010

I wear them all the time because I play soccer so it gets annoying not to wear them because they are so comfortable.

By anon68572 — On Mar 03, 2010

OK anon54222, that's just wrong. And yes they cool as well as keep everything in place.

By anon68489 — On Mar 02, 2010

they do work. That 120-pound kid from online is 12 and wears them when he grapples because his thighs/quads are so big. i guess it helps but it's sad you can't see his huge thighs and quads.

By anon54222 — On Nov 28, 2009

i wear them as everyday clothes with nothing over or under.

By diamondrmp — On May 18, 2009

Do compression shirts, shorts cool also?

By anon28317 — On Mar 14, 2009

You wear them over your birthday suit.

By anon20086 — On Oct 25, 2008

i wear them as underwear

By anon3595 — On Sep 06, 2007

Groin compression shorts are fantastic for groin and hip flexor strains where an additional wrap on the outside of the compression shorts is needed for additional compression. They helped me get back to playing football with a shorter recovery time.

By anon3592 — On Sep 06, 2007

you wear them like underwear

By anon3182 — On Aug 15, 2007

do you wear them over or instead of undergarments?

By staubmon — On May 09, 2007

do you wear underwear (like briefs) underneth the compression shorts or do you wear them just like boxer briefs?

Michael Pollick

Michael Pollick


As a frequent contributor to The Health Board, Michael Pollick uses his passion for research and writing to cover a wide...
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