Janet is a 50-something stay-at-home mother who lives in a small town on the Oregon coast, alongside her husband and their two dogs. Her children recently left home to begin their college education, and her husband’s career demands a lot of his time, so she’s recently found herself getting back into gardening after a decades-long hiatus. After all, who has personal time for much of anything when trying to raise kids?
Except there’s a problem. In stark contrast to her days as a young adult, Janet’s body now has a hard time keeping up with the demands of gardening, and she often finds herself with sore knees, a cricked back, inflamed elbows, and stiff finger joints. Some days, Janet can’t even muster the energy to garden and has to take some time off as a result.
In an effort to address her painful joints and muscles, Janet’s been doing some online research, and has learned that copper may provide her with some level of relief. And while there are many products that claim to accomplish this, including copper bracelets and supplements, Janet is most interested in copperwear products, which claim to combine compression and copper in order to provide a wide range of benefits.
The reality is that, other than preventing stains and unwanted odors, the copper contained in copperwear products provides no added benefits.
But before Janet spends any of her hard-earned money, she wants to know if these copperwear products can really work, or whether they’re just hype. Fortunately for Janet (and for you), is exactly what we’ll address in this article. But why talk about these types of products in the first place?
Over the past couple of years, we here at HighYa have watched as an increasing number of copper-based products have emerged on the market, many of which come with moderate-to-poor reviews from customers. In fact, so many consumers have complained about copperwear products that we felt it would be a good idea to delve into the science behind them, and whether or not this data supports the claims of copperwear manufacturers.
With this said, let’s start at square one and talk about what copper is, as well as some of its benefits. From there, we’ll work our way up to answer your important questions specifically about copperwear.
What Is Copper?
According to WebMD, copper is a mineral found in a wide variety of foods, including “organ meats, seafood, nuts, seeds, wheat bran cereals, grain products, and cocoa products.” When ingested internally, copper is primarily stored in bones and muscle, while the liver is responsible for determining the amount of copper within your blood, which is necessary for producing and storing iron.
Outside the body, copper has been used since 8,000 B.C. for a wide variety of purposes, including its antimicrobial (e.g. kills bacteria) applications. This is because copper causes the outer membranes of bacteria to rupture, which results in water and nutrient loss, thereby causing the cell to weaken and die.
Clearly, copper is an essential mineral for a properly functioning body, and even has health applications outside your body. Because of this, it only makes sense that extra copper in our lives is a good thing, right? As it turns out, this might not be the case.
Are There Any Health Benefits From Copper Supplementation?
From an internal perspective, in most cases, we get all the copper we need through the foods we eat, so supplementation (e.g. purposely increasing the amount of copper in our body) is only required in rare instances such as “severe childhood protein deficiency, persistent infantile diarrhea (usually associated with a diet limited to milk), severe malabsorption (as in sprue), and excessive zinc intake.” In fact, almost all of the copper in your body is bound to copper proteins, and any that aren’t attached to these proteins are considered toxic and can cause unwanted side effects such as vomiting, low blood pressure, heart problems, and much more.
Despite the fact that not even athletes require copper supplementation if they eat good diets, a quick online search for “health benefits of copper” will turn up hundreds of websites claiming to help with arthritis, hair and eye pigmentation, brain function, energy levels, premature aging, and much more. However, as alluded to above, there is insufficient clinical evidence showing that copper supplementation is effective for anything other than copper deficiency, and in some instances, osteoporosis.
As such, except in very rare circumstances, copper supplementation likely won’t help, and could even cause some very real health concerns. But what about applying copper to the outside of your body?
What Is Copperwear?
At its most basic, copper wear is a broad sub-category of products intended to be worn on the outside of your body, encompassing knee and elbow sleeves, gloves, and even socks, which are comprised of two primary components:
- Neoprene (or some other semi-stretchy material), which is claimed to provide compression, and
- Copper-infused fibers, which are claimed to prevent the buildup of bacteria.
Even though copperwear doesn’t introduce any copper into your bloodstream, manufacturers claim that they can provide a wide array of benefits, including improved circulation, relief from muscle pain and stiffness, reduced muscle recovery time, the ability to prevent muscle strain and fatigue, to guard against bacteria buildup, and more. Is this actually the case though?
Are There Any Health Benefits Related to Copperwear?
Whether or not copperwear introduces copper into your bloodstream, can you realistically expect to experience any of these benefits?
Here’s where things get a little blurry, at least from a marketing perspective. Why? Because if you read the text carefully on copperwear websites, they don’t actually claim that the copper in their products provides any benefits, other than preventing the buildup of bacteria. And as we learned at the beginning of the article, copper really can help accomplish this.
However, if you were only to glance at their websites and skim over the text they contain, you might reasonably believe that the copper in these products can provide you with improved circulation, reduces arthritis pain, increased joint flexibility, and more. In fact, some products seem to include additional copper in key areas (e.g. joints) for added relief, such as Copper Hands.
A screenshot from the Copper Hands website showing that they’re “embellished with copper in focal areas.”
But the reality is that, other than preventing stains and unwanted odors, the copper contained in copperwear products provides no added benefits. Instead, these benefits are provided by compression.
Fair enough. What about other types of products infused with copper though, such as bracelets and rings? After all, aren’t they promoted as a way to relieve arthritis pain?
To answer this, according to Healthline, “A recent five-week scientific study observed participants who wore copper bracelets, magnetic wrist straps, or bracelets and wrist straps that were neither copper nor magnetized (placebos). The participants were not told which type they were given.” After 5 weeks had passed, is was found that “copper bracelets (and magnetic wrist straps) had no more effect on arthritis than the placebos.” Furthermore, WebMD specifically states that “copper bracelets don’t help rheumatoid arthritis.”
In summary, other than killing bacteria, any relief you’ll experience from copperwear products is due to the compression they provide, not the copper they contain.
What Are HighYa Readers Saying About Copperwear Products?
Now that we’ve taken a closer look at the science behind copperwear and copper-related products, let’s delve into what consumers are saying about them.
Here at HighYa, we’ve accumulated more than 250 consumer reviews for some of the most popular copperwear products, including Tommie Copper, Copper Fit, Copper Hands, Copper Wear, and Miracle Copper Socks. Among these products, they hold an average rating of 2.5 stars, with some of the most common compliments referencing reduced pain and a comfortable fit. However, as we outlined above, it’s all but certain that the benefits they’re receiving are related to the compression, not the copper.
On the other hand, it seems that the complaints for the majority of these copperwear products far outweigh the compliments, and include poor quality, failure to provide any pain relief, and improper sizing. On top of this, many HighYa readers also complained of extraordinarily long shipping times, high S&H charges (we’ll talk more about this in a moment), and poor customer service (difficulty processing refunds, upsells during phone calls, etc.).
With all this in mind, let’s answer the big question: should you spend your hard-earned money on a copperwear product?
Should You Purchase a Copperwear Product?
Ultimately, the answer to this question depends solely on your expectations. Why?
Because if you suffer from arthritis or other types of chronic conditions, have tried different braces and/or sleeves in the past with mediocre results, and are expecting the copper in copperwear to provide some kind of additional pain relief, then the results likely won’t match with your expectations.
On the other hand, if you’ve used compression wear in the past with some level of success, but lead an active lifestyle and noticed that your sleeves tended to quickly accumulate unwanted odors, then the copper in copperwear products may help prevent this. Or, if you’ve never tried compression wear for your arthritis, sore muscles, or back pain and are wondering if it can provide pain relief, then copperwear might offer a solution.
However, many copperwear products sold online fall within the “As Seen on TV” niche, which means that they often include very high, non-refundable shipping and handling charges—sometimes totaling more than the cost of the product itself. What’s more, even if customers are willing to lose this money and request a refund, many complain of poor customer service.
The good news is that many copperwear products are sold at local retailers, especially pharmacies and sporting goods stores, which can help you:
- Easily return the product if you’re dissatisfied.
- Save a ton of money on S&H charges.
- Prevent a frustrating call to customer service, along with numerous upsells.
But when you’re browsing the shelves at these stores, it’s important to keep in mind that other than the copper they contain (and the antimicrobial benefits this provides), there doesn’t appear to be anything that separates copperwear from standard neoprene compression products.