Tommy Copper®: The Real Deal

Compression wear is all the rage, and lots of well-known athletic apparel companies, like Nike and Under Armor have developed compression wear product lines.

Compression wear is designed to enhance performance, relieve fatigue, and ease joint and muscle pain.

While originally worn by athletes and exercisers, compression wear has crossed over to everyday wear for people with arthritis and other joint and muscle conditions – especially those seeking alternatives to pain relieving medication.

Where you were once most likely to see compression wear worn by neighborhood runners, you are now just as likely to see it on your mail carrier or even your grandma.

Most compression wear does exactly that – compresses to give extra warmth and support. However, manufacturer Tommie Copper® has gone one step further and infused their products with copper which, they say, can help provide natural pain relief.

Compression wear, on its own, has already been shown to be beneficial.

So, the question is…

Does the copper in Tommie Copper® products offer any additional benefit?

About Tommie Copper®

Tommie Copper Inc. was founded by Thomas Kallish in 2010 and produces a wide range of compression wear and joint supports designed for active and everyday wear. Their products are infused with copper, which, the company alleges, can help significantly reduce aches and pains. Tommy Copper® products are available from their website and many online retailers including Amazon.com. The Tommy Copper® range offers items for men, women, and children and includes:

· Tops

· Bottoms

· Underwear

· Arm and leg sleeves

· Gloves

· Socks

· Orthotics

· Supports for various parts of the body including the wrists, knees, ankles, and elbows

Each product is available in a range of sizes and colors. There are two main types of Tommie Copper® product: Core and Performance. Core products are designed to be comfortable and are made for everyday use e.g. to relieve the discomfort of arthritis or to reduce muscle soreness caused by exercise. The performance products offer more compression and support and are designed to be worn during exercise, sport, or energetic activities such as gardening.

You can learn a little more about Tommie Copper® in this short video –

What is Compression Wear?

Compression wear is tight fitting and elasticized and can be worn on its own as an outer layer or under other clothing to form a base layer. Usually made of Lycra or another stretchy material, compression wear like Tommy Copper® offers several noteworthy benefits:

Compression wear can help Reduce Edema – Swelling caused by fluid retention is called edema and can be caused by long periods of inactivity e.g. plane journeys, and is common in people who have to stand for a long time, as well as during pregnancy. Compression wear can help alleviate edema by preventing fluid from gathering in one particular part of the body. Compression socks, for example, can help prevent swollen ankles.

Compression wear helps Keep You Warm – Because it fits snugly, compression wear traps a layer of air close to your skin which is then heated by your body and acts as an additional layer of insulation. This is very useful is you have an old injury that feels better with extra warmth, or you are involved in a start/stop activity such as sprint training or weight training and want to avoid getting cold between efforts. Compression wear is also highly wicking which means that it directs perspiration out and away from your skin for easy evaporation, so you stay dry despite sweating.

Compression wear provides Joint Support – Exercise can leave your joints feeling sore and susceptible to injury. This is especially true of your hips, knees, and shoulders. Compression wear offers a modicum of support which, combined with the increased warmth around the suspect area, may allow you to exercise around joint discomfort.

The weight training exercises squats and bench presses, for example, can be especially hard on your hips and shoulders, and these joints are all but impossible to protect with traditional forms of athletic support. Compression wear is the only realistic way to provide support to hips and shoulders. Tommie Copper produces a range of supports specifically for the ankles, knees, and elbows to provide targeted support for your joints.

Compression wear may Increase Strength and Power (1) – Hilton’s law states that the same nerves that supply your skin also supply the underlying muscles and that stimulating those nerves can help improve the strength of muscle contractions. Because compression wear is snug, you will be able to feel it against your skin which means that the muscles underneath will be better activated.

A compression T-shirt will help improve the function of your chest, shoulders, and triceps--which can lead to a better bench press. Compression shorts or tights will help improve the function of your glutes, hamstrings, and quadriceps, which can lead to improved running and jumping performance. Improvements may be slight, but for some readers, any increase in performance is worth pursuing.

Compression wear may Increase Strength and Power (2) – Compression wear provides a small but significant “bounce” out of extended joint positions e.g. at the bottom of a push-up or squat or as you extend your legs backward while running. This allows you to train harder which will expose your muscles to more resistance and which will, in turn, result in improved performance.

The newer and stiffer your compression garment is, the more noticeable this benefit will be. Some compression garments have inflexible strips or seams built in along specific stress lines to enhance this bounce effect further. The Tommie Copper performance range is designed to do this.

Compression wear can Reduce Fatigue – Research suggests that compression wear can help increase the rate of blood lactate removal, which will not only reduce fatigue during exercise but will also enhance recovery after. Some studies show that wearing compression garments can reduce DOMS – short for the delayed onset muscle soreness that many exercisers experience after hard workouts. Also, compression garments cut down on unwanted muscle vibrations which, scientists suggest, may contribute to fatigue. If you’re an endurance athlete, it seems that compression wear may allow you to train longer and more frequently.

Compression wear makes you Feel Secure – Putting on compression wear provides an almost indescribable sensation of security and protection. This is, in part, due to the aforementioned Hilton’s law and the support provided by these garments. Compression garments provide a unique sensation that is both comforting and signals that it’s time to work out. This can enhance everyday feelings of confidence in joints that are otherwise stiff, weak, or sore.

How do Tommie Copper® Products Work?

In addition to their compressive qualities, Tommie Copper® compression wear is infused with copper. Copper has long been associated with joint pain relief, and many people believe that wearing a copper bangle or bracelet can help reduce joint pain. Studies show that these bracelets may have some therapeutic benefit for some users.

However, the claims made by Tommie Copper® that their combination of compression and copper could help alleviate even the severe pain of multiple sclerosis, arthritis, and fibromyalgia, replacing the need for pain-reducing medication, is not backed by science. In fact, these claims were deemed to be false or unsubstantiated by the Federal Trade Commission, who handed down fines of $86.8 million which were subsequently reduced to $1.35 million.

Tommie Copper® products work because they are compression garments designed to offer support and provide all the other benefits associated with this type of clothing. However, the inclusion of copper in the material seems to provide very little in the way of additional advantages.

What We Like about Tommie Copper® 

Tommie Copper® makes good compression garments that are comfortable to wear, provide a good level of compression, and match the performance of similar brands of compression wear.

Unlike most compression wear companies, Tommie Copper® only makes compression wear. This means that, unlike other manufacturers who offer just a few different items in their range, Tommie Copper’s range of compression items is very comprehensive. In fact, if you name an area of your body over which you want to wear compression clothing, Tommie Copper will undoubtedly have a product to match your needs.

We like that Tommie Copper® offers two levels of compression – Core and Performance. This means that they’ve got you covered whether you are a hardcore exerciser looking for extra support during your workout or want something to wear all day to ease your aching joints.

They even offer dress socks.

Many compression product brands are very showy and could never pass as everyday wear. However, Tommie Copper® products are understated and quite conservative making them ideal for daily use – even if you aren’t an exerciser or don’t want to look like you have just come from the gym. Some of the garments, especially in the ladies range of core and performance tops, don’t even look like athletic wear and could easily pass for regular casual wear.

With lots of different colors available, you can mix and match Tommy Copper® products to match your wardrobe.

All products seem to be well made, and if you are in any way dissatisfied with your product, you can return it within 60-days for an exchange or refund. If you buy your product from their website, you are still liable for shipping and handling fees.

What We Don’t Like about Tommie Copper®

The main issue we have with Tommie Copper® products is their exaggerated claim that their copper-infused range of compression wear could alleviate severe medical pain and discomfort. While compression wear can be beneficial in some medical scenarios, Tommy Copper® products are no more effective for pain relief than other brands of compression wear.

To help keep some of the products in place, especially the arm and leg sleeves, Tommie Copper® products use a strip of silicon which may cause irritation or allergic reaction. Although this is mentioned on the packaging, it’s not mentioned explicitly on the website and could mean that some customers end up buying a product that they cannot comfortably use.

Tommie Copper® customer service is not always very good. Complaints include slow delivery, slow product replacement, and poor communication from the service team.

Reviews: The Word on the Street

Reviews for Tommie Copper® products are decidedly mixed. On the one hand, many users are very satisfied with their purchase and say that their compression garments work as well as any other. Some people report significant pain relief despite that no scientific evidence supports the pain-relief claims of Tommy Copper Inc. In contrast, some users have experienced very little benefit, and many of the negative reviews tend to center on the fact that pain relief is not as dramatic as hoped for.

1. Reviewing the Tommie Copper Women's Performance Rhythm Long Sleeve Crew Shirt, Kuno on Amazon.com says:

“Great shirt. Fit perfectly and looks flattering. I put it on as soon as I received it and didn't want to take it off. I will be buying more in other colors. It has a slight compression, but not much. Feels good, looks good, warm... what more can I say, I really love this shirt. And it has thumb holes which is even better for cold days walking the dog. Seems to help after a long intense day of weights, boxing and yoga abuse to my body as well. No complaints as of yet, except that I have to take it off and wash it lol!

2. Ann Rupert on Highya.com says:

“Just purchased the Tommie Copper back support for both pain relief and support. It does not provide enough support in my opinion. It's flimsy after wearing and gets wrinkles in it, taking on a form of its own. I plan to add vertical stays to it to keep it straight. It may be ok after that but should not have to do anything to it.”

3. Joan Williams on ReviewOpedia.com says:

“I bought 2 women’s knee sleeves 2 months ago, and am ordering 2 more. They have helped with my osteoarthritis. My orthopedic surgeon said I would be throwing my money away by buying them, (he wanted to do 2 knee replacement surgeries, more money for him) but at 83 years old I did not want to have more surgery. I am completely satisfied with my Tommie Copper product.