Jobs that require a person to spend the entire day sitting may not sound like hard work, but they can take their toll on the health of those who spend countless hours glued to their chairs. One way that excessive sitting can negatively affect health is through causing swelling and pain in the lower body.
Fortunately, high quality compression socks are a perfect way to alleviate symptoms of swollen and heavy legs, especially for those who can’t simply get up and walk around whenever they please.
One benefit of compression socks is that they are suitable for everyone. There is no difference between compression socks for men or women, aside from the fact that there is a large choice of colors and patterns available from today’s compression sock suppliers. Compression socks may technically be a medical device, but that doesn’t mean they have to be plain and unattractive like a basic hospital gown.
What are the best compression socks to wear if you sit all day?
Compression socks are also known as compression stockings, and in medical terms, they are called TED hose, short for a thromboembolism-deterrent hose.
They fit tightest at the ankle and become less and less tight toward the knees.
These socks are a form of hosiery specifically designed to prevent venous disorders like thrombosis, phlebitis, and edema.
Compression socks are worn to compress the limb (in this instance, the leg), which reduces enlarged veins and increases blood flow, thus promoting valve effectiveness. Knee-high compression socks help increase circulation and prevent blood clots from forming by pushing the blood back toward the heart.
Compression socks come in different levels of compression, which is indicated by a number followed with the letters mmHg. Over-the-counter socks are 10-15 or 15-20 mmHg. If you require a higher rating you will need a prescription and a qualified fitter. The higher pressures found in compression socks are from 20-30 mmHg up to 50+ mmHg.
Why are blood clots so dangerous?
Blood clots occur in people who can’t move around freely, such as those who have to sit at work for extended periods of time, or those who are recovering from an injury or surgery.
Unfortunately, blood clots that form in the veins in your legs, groin, and arms may break loose, moving to other parts of your body, including your lungs. This creates a condition called a pulmonary embolism, which can be fatal.
You can help prevent blood clots if you:
- Wear compression stockings or compression socks
- Get adequate exercise
- Change position often
- Avoid sitting or standing for longer than one hour at a time
- Reduce your salt intake
- Limit crossing your legs
- Raise the bottom of your bed slightly when you sleep
Compression socks help to prevent blood clots, as they force blood through narrower channels by compressing veins, arteries, and muscles on the surface of your leg.
While they can prevent blood clots, compression stockings are not intended to replace healthy movement and regular activity; they are simply a method to aid circulation if you have no choice but to remain seated for prolonged periods of time.
If you work in a job where you have to sit for extended periods of time, the best compression stockings will prevent your legs from suffering the consequences of your sedentary workday – swelling, blood pooling, venous disorders, heaviness, tingling, and numbness to name but a few. In short, if you sit often, you should wear compression socks.
The benefits of compression stockings for those who have to sit for extended periods
Compression socks, although worn by athletes and other active people, were first designed to help prevent blood clots, reduce leg swelling, and improve circulation in patients whose mobility was reduced due to surgery or other medical conditions.
Today, compression socks are worn by diverse people across all vocations who are involved in all kinds of activities.
The following examples show just who can benefit from wearing compression socks:
- You sit for hours at a time at work – wear compression socks
- You stand for hours at a time at work – wear compression socks
- You are an athlete – wear compression socks
- You are a frequent, long-distance flyer – wear compression socks
- You are recovering from an injury or surgery – wear compression socks
- You are pregnant – wear compression socks
- You are diabetic – wear compression socks
If you sit for long periods of time at work, it is important to choose knee-high compression stockings, as they help fight the effects of gravity by gently squeezing your blood back up the leg and toward your heart.
The compression in these socks simply helps your blood vessels work better, preventing your legs from feeling swollen, tingly, tired or achy after a long workday.
What types of jobs require people to sit for prolonged periods of time?
Most office jobs: clerk, data-entry worker, writer, designer, receptionist, programmer
Call center personnel
Electronic assembly-line employees
Cashiers and tellers
Toll booth operators
Pilots and air traffic controllers
Drivers: train, bus, truck, couriers
Crane and forklift operators
If your job falls in any of the above categories, or perhaps one that we have overlooked and you are required to sit for hours at a time, wearing compression socks will help relieve some of the symptoms of swelling, fatigue, and aches.
Why is sitting all day so bad for your health?
A job that requires a person to spend most of the day seated does not entirely rule out the risk of injury.
Sitting for too long slows your circulation.
The decrease in blood flow causes an increase in the buildup of fatty acids in your blood vessels. Gravity wins every time – working against the blood that is trying to make its way back up your legs and to your heart. The result is that your feet and lower legs swell and feel heavy. Fortunately, wearing compression socks will help!
Other physical ailments that are common among people with desk jobs (or any job that requires one to be seated for hours at a time) are back, neck and shoulder muscle tenderness or pain; stiffness and numbness in the buttocks and legs; and joint pain in hips, knees, and ankles. Again, wearing compression socks will help!
Being seated for continuous and prolonged periods of time is also known to cause heart disease, reduced mental health, and health issues like diabetes.
For this reason, we would like to encourage you not to rely on your compression socks for your general health and well-being. Even if your job has you sitting for hours at a time you should take breaks and you must exercise when you are not seated so that these chronic ailments don’t sneak up on you. Wearing compressions socks will help, but they should not take the place of regular physical activity.
Sitting for too long can cause bones, muscles, tendons, and ligaments to suffer damage in the long run.
One would think that keeping still is safe, when in fact extended periods of immobility result in a higher likelihood of muscles being strained or pulled. Once again, wearing compression socks will help!
Do you wonder why you feel physically tired after a day’s work even if all you have been doing is sitting?
- Sitting requires your muscles to hold your trunk, neck, and shoulders in one position.
- Blood vessels are squeezed, reducing supply to the muscles that are moving.
- Heart activity slows because of reduced blood flow.
- An inadequate blood supply exacerbates fatigue.
If you feel fatigued at the end of that day, even though all you’ve been doing is sitting, just remember that wearing compression socks will help.
What can I do if my job requires long hours of being seated?
Besides purchasing and wearing a pair of compression socks, you can ensure you have the right chair for your body type, and you can perform a few exercises during your breaks and when you are not at work.
Firstly, let’s look at your chair.
Like compression stockings, your chair has to be a good fit for you in order for you to be the most comfortable. It’s rather impossible to custom build a chair for every individual, which is unfortunate because our requirements are so varied.
If you’re six feet tall, have long legs and weak abdominal muscles, your chair requirements vary greatly from a five-and-a-half foot person who has core strength.
To overcome the lack of chair choices, the adjustable office chair offers a viable solution. Being able to adjust the height of the seat and the height and angle of the backrest allows room for individual needs to be met.
Now let’s look at those exercises and activities that can keep you healthy during a long workday of sitting.
- Set a timer to remind yourself to stand up and stretch at least once an hour.
- Sip upright. Compression stockings help stimulate good circulation in your legs, but it may be a bit squishy to wear them on your body, so it is helpful to keep your spine straight to help the rest of your body’s circulation. Focus on strengthening your core if you struggle to maintain an upright posture.
- Be sure to move during the day – don’t leave everything for the gym. Although your job may require hours of chair-time, we all have to take breaks to eat, drink or go to the bathroom. Get your blood pumping during these breaks by doing a few lunges or stair-jumps. Take the stairs and avoid elevators or escalators.
- Sit on a stability ball instead of a chair occasionally.
- If at all possible, change your desk to a standing desk.
- Get creative – stand during a meeting, or better yet, take a walk while you talk business.
The following extract is from self.com.
“Sitting all day can also impact us physically. Sitting for long periods of time, especially with poor posture, makes your hip flexors tight, which causes the glutes (butt muscles) to lengthen to compensate. Over time, this compromises the ability of the gluteal muscles to activate properly, leading to a condition called gluteal amnesia, AKA dead butt syndrome. When your glutes can’t do their job, other muscles in your body have to work harder, which ultimately can overwork them, leading to poor body alignment and aches. Tight hip flexors also make it harder for your pelvis to rotate properly—inhibited mobility in this area can cause compression and pain in the lower back, physical therapist Dan Giordano, D.P.T., C.S.C.S., and co-founder of Bespoke Treatments Physical Therapy in New York City, tells SELF.”
Self.com put together a workout to help undo some of the damage caused by sitting all day. These exercises are designed to:
- work the posterior muscles of the body
- develop pelvic and spinal alignment
- strengthen your core
- engage your legs
Dead Bug — 20 reps, alternating
Develops core strength
- Lie on your back with your arms at shoulder level raised toward the ceiling. Bring your legs up into tabletop position (knees bent 90 degrees and stacked over your hips).
- Slowly extend your right leg out straight, while simultaneously dropping your left arm overhead. Keep both a few inches from the ground.
- Bring your arm and leg back to the starting position.
- Repeat on the other side, extending your left leg and your right arm. That’s one rep. Continue alternating for 20 reps total.
Plank — 30 seconds
Works your whole body and strengthens core
- Get on all fours with your toes on the ground shoulder-width apart. Place your forearms flat on the floor in front of you with your elbows directly below your shoulders.
- Keep your core tight so your body is in a straight line from head to toe.
- Squeeze your thighs and butt.
- Keep your neck and spine in a comfortable, neutral position.
- Hold for 30 seconds.
Single-Leg Bridges — 12 reps each leg
Works largest glute muscle plus hamstring and core
- Lie flat on your back. Bend your knees and place your feet flat on the floor about a foot or so away from your butt. Rest your arms at your sides on the floor.
- Lift your right leg in the air toward the ceiling, keeping your foot flexed.
- Push through your left foot to lift your glutes, hips, and back off the ground.
- Slowly lower back down, keeping your right leg in the air.
- Repeat for 12 reps, and then switch legs.
Repeat the entire circuit three times.
Compression socks are great for people who have to sit at work for extended periods of time, but they are also useful at other times.
Common reasons to wear compression socks:
Improve athletic performance
Because they offer muscle and vascular support, promote circulation, and aid in muscle recovery, compression socks are a valuable piece of most athletes’ wardrobes.
Besides being worn during and after athletic events, compression stockings can be worn whilst commuting to events that are far away, further reducing the risk of muscle injury or vein disorders. Compression socks also help prevent injuries due to overuse, underuse, and inflammation.
Enhance post-exercise recovery
As we touched on above – the compression of the socks aids blood circulation which helps tired, sore muscles to recover faster.
For injuries that require rest, ice, compression and elevation (RICE), compression socks offer a solution.
Such injuries include plantar fasciitis, shin splints, calf strain or sprain, and ankle sprain or strain.
Reduce the risk of edema during pregnancy
During pregnancy, the expanding uterus places pressure on the inferior vena cava (the vein responsible for returning blood to the heart), and this can affect leg veins and cause swelling.
Swelling is not only uncomfortable, but it can lead to risky medical conditions like blood clots and pulmonary embolism. By enhancing circulation and improving venous health, compression socks are used during both rest and activity.
Reduce swelling in those with diabetes
One of the negative side effects of diabetes is reduced circulation, especially to the feet. Wearing compression stockings will improve blood flow and therefore reduce the effects of this condition.
Helps prevent blood pooling in those who are bedridden
Originally designed for this very reason, compression socks aid with circulation in those who are bedridden due to illness, post-operative care, or injury.
Prevents thrombosis during long flights
There is hardly a space on earth more cramped than the seat of an airplane on a long-distance flight, and when you’re flying a mile high, you can’t just step out for a walk. Wearing compression socks while flying is therefore highly recommended for travelers, flight attendants, and cabin crew alike.
Prevents varicose and spider veins
Varicose veins are large, raised veins that can be painful, unattractive, and medically unsafe. They occur when blood flow is poor, hindering venous return.
When blood is restricted from returning to the heart for recirculation, it pools in the legs, enlarging the veins.
While being active helps prevent varicose veins, they can occur in healthy, athletic people, especially if they have prolonged periods of inactivity due to sitting behind a desk at work all day. Compression socks help with the prevention of spider veins and varicose veins.
Increases muscular stability
Those who, adverse to sitting all day, have jobs or participate in activities that require them to stand for prolonged periods, also need compression socks to help beat the effects of poor circulation caused by being in one position for too long. For example, flight attendants, factory workers, waitresses, nurses, security officials, etc., all benefit from wearing compression socks.
Compression stockings can also be used in the management and treatment of diseases and complications such as Chronic Venous Insufficiency, Venous Thromboembolism, and Lymphedema.
There are no harmful side effects to wearing compression socks
Other medical devices may have negative side-effects, but compression socks have none.
The extreme tightness of compression stockings can cause mild discomfort at first, but as edema and swelling ease, so will the tightness.
Some people struggle with putting their compression stockings on. This is because of the tightness of the fibers, which is important for achieving the therapeutic benefit of the socks.
Tips for donning your compression stockings
Here are a few tips to help you:
Gently pull the un-bunched sock over your foot until it is over the foot and heel. This can also be done while the stocking is folded inside out or rolled down to your ankle. Slowly pull or unroll the rest of the sock up your leg to the correct height, smoothing it out as you go.
Make sure your skin is dry. If you have applied lotion, wait for it to be completely absorbed, as moisture makes it more difficult to don your compression stockings.
Apply talcum powder to your feet and legs before you put your compression socks on. This will not only help the socks to go on more easily but will also help absorb perspiration once you are wearing them.
When you are going to put on your compression socks, sit on a chair for stability.
When the compression sock is on, make sure that there is no bunching or wrinkling and that the seams are straight up your leg. Don’t fold the top of the socks down like you would sports or dress socks.
There is a device called a stocking donner that can help you don a compression stocking a little easier if you struggle to grasp and pull. This is especially helpful for people who have arthritis.
Considering that compression socks are capable of preventing, treating and managing a wide variety of health concerns and medical conditions, the lack of contraindications linked to wearing compression socks proves that they are not only very effective but also completely safe.
It is, however, important to ensure your compression socks fit properly to achieve their full benefit. If you are unsure, seek the advice of a medical practitioner who will measure you, ascertain your needs, and determine which compression socks will suit you best.
There are so many reasons to wear compression stockings for your general health and wellbeing.
In this article, we focused mainly on the health benefits of wearing compression socks when you sit at work for extended periods of time, but that’s not where their benefits end.
Compression socks can be worn by athletes, who put them on the complete opposite end of the scale from those who have to spend hours per day sitting at work. Compression socks can be worn by patients recovering from surgery or people recovering from injury. Compression socks should be worn by all long-distance flyers, including the cabin crew. Pregnant women and people with diabetes would benefit as much as those whose occupation or activity requires long hours of standing. In fact, we can’t think of anyone who would not benefit from the improved circulation that wearing knee-high compression stockings offers.
Whatever your reason for wearing compression socks, you can rest assured that they are working with your body and against gravity to improve blood flow and circulation in your legs, thus reducing the chance of you developing any venous disorders.
The best compression socks for sitting all day fit right, are appropriately graded and are made from only the best quality materials.