By Paul Thornton, DogHillMedia.com contributor
March 13, 2021
NASHVILLE, TN – Copper-infused compression garments seem to be everywhere these days. A search for “copper compression” on a popular auction site at the time of this writing found over 2,000 items for sale.
One of the prominent sellers of these products, Tommie Copper, Inc., has advertised its Copper Fit garments heavily on TV and online. Consumers have been bombarded with commercials for Copper Fit products such as knee and elbow sleeves, socks, and gloves. Their commercial success has inspired others. Copper Fit copycats abound.
But what is so special about copper, anyway? Does it have magical properties or something?
Or has the entire copper-infused industry been built on a foundation of sketchy advertising?
In November 2015 the Federal Trade Commission brought a complaint against Tommie Copper, Inc.* and its founder alleging violation of the FTC Act. The complaint was settled just days later. A December 1, 2015 FTC press release stated:
“Athletic apparel company Tommie Copper, Inc. and its founder have agreed to pay $1.35 million to settle Federal Trade Commission charges that they deceptively advertised the company’s copper-infused compression clothing would relieve severe and chronic pain and inflammation caused by arthritis and other diseases.
“Tommie Copper’s proposed settlement with the FTC also requires the company and its founder and chairman Thomas Kallish to have competent and reliable scientific evidence before making future claims about pain relief, disease treatment, or health benefits.”
According to the FTC complaint, a 2012 Tommie Copper catalogue stated, “By placing the copper [emphasis added] at the source of the discomfort, it provides immediate relief from inflammation, starts to stimulate blood flow and harnesses the other well-known health benefits of copper.”
Wait a minute – a little copper at the source of discomfort provides immediate relief? Sounds like hocus-pocus, right?
The Copper Question
But what if the copper in compression garments actually does provide a pain relief benefit to the wearer? In the years since the FTC complaint was filed had anyone bothered to look into this?
Your Dog Hill Media correspondent set out to determine: (i) if the copper in compression garments could provide a pain relief benefit to the wearer; or (ii) if the idea that copper could do this was just a big steaming pile of copper-colored crap.
I went online to purchase a few copper-infused products for research purposes. Fortunately there is no shortage of Copper Fit garments on the market today, but they all seemed really expensive:
$19.99 for a pair of flimsy gloves?
$19.99 for the “Advanced Back Pro” man girdle thing?
$19.99 for two pairs of “Energy Socks”?
$19.99 for two cheap knee sleeves?
$19.99 for two cheap elbow sleeves?
Yikes. I quickly realized that there wasn’t enough cash in the budget to conduct research using Copper Fit products. Knockoff products cost less, of course, but shipping times from China can take a while, and I didn’t want to wait.
I sat on my couch, discouraged. Then it hit me – if the copper in copper-infused compression garments could provide pain relief, certainly an actual piece of copper placed “at the source of the discomfort” would have a similar effect! I reached down under a couch cushion and found a few copper pennies among other loose change!
The Copper Test Begins
I ride my bike on the weekends for exercise, and sometimes my wrists and heels get sore. I decided to place a copper penny in my tight cycling gloves to see if it would relieve wrist pain:
I also wore tight socks and put a penny in each to see if this would relieve heel pain, as well as harness “the other well-known health benefits of copper.” Whatever those are.
I then put copper bullion balls in my underwear to hopefully relieve groin pain, a common cycling ailment:
With the copper in place I hopped on my bike and “noticed results” instantly. Not only did the pain in my hands, heels and groin disappear, I was riding faster than I had ever ridden before! Lance Armstrong couldn’t ride this fast on testosterone, a fresh blood transfusion and a gallon of EPO in his veins! I was having the best ride of my life! All thanks to some spare change I found under a couch cushion, and two copper bullion balls!
While out on my ride I passed Olympic cycling champions like they were fat kids on tricycles. I rode through a speed trap and the radar gun had me going 60 m.p.h. (uphill). During the first hour of my ride all of my hair grew back and I gained 30 pounds of lean muscle!
At the end of my ride I jumped off my bike to tackle a bank robber, and then rescued 20 supermodels from a burning tour bus (I later scored with all of them). Placing copper in my underwear had made me a new man! Copper was like the fountain of youth! Copper had given me my life back!!
Okay, okay, here’s what really happened:
Placing copper in my tight socks and gloves (and tighty-whities) did nothing to relieve pain. Nothing at all. The idea that copper in a compression garment could provide a pain relief benefit to the wearer appears to be complete fantasy. And I only scored with 5 of the 20 supermodels.
It’s embarrassing to think that I even spent time doing this research. Copper having some sort of power to relieve pain? Please.
Commercials for Copper Fit products have featured a number of what I consider to be meaningless statements designed to separate people from their money. For example, in one commercial for Copper Fit sleeves, a D1 Collegiate Track Star says, “For the first week I’ve noticed results.”
Well, what kind of results? Crappy results?
In a commercial for Copper Fit Energy Socks, a SWAT Commander says, “They totally exceeded my expectations.”
Ok, sir, but were your expectations lower than dirt to begin with? And why does the message on the screen say, “Result not typical.”?
Then a pregnant woman tells us, “Copper Fit Energy Socks worked beautifully,” while the screen again says, “Result not typical.”
So the consumer is essentially being warned that the product probably won’t exceed expectations and probably won’t work beautifully. Super. I’m not exactly reaching for my credit card here.
The FTC was correct to bring a claim against Tommie Copper, Inc. in 2015, but the amount the FTC collected in settlement seems way too low. The copper-infused train rolls on, but as for me, I’m glad I didn’t buy into the copper hype. No former NFL stars paid to wear ugly, overpriced man girdles can convince me otherwise.
The next time I have a sore knee or elbow, rather than reach for a copper-infused product I’ll save my copper pennies and go “all in” for an old-school ace bandage instead. The humble, tried-and-true ace bandage may not have a slick advertising campaign, but it provides adjustable compression at a fraction of the cost.
And without the foolish copper.
Paul Thornton, DogHillMedia.com contributor
*According to the FTC complaint (Civil Action No. 15-9304 dated November 25, 2015) Tommie Copper, Inc. also did business as “Tommie Copper Inc.” through July 2014.
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