Introduction- Best Compression Socks
Compression socks can be traced on a wide swath of the population. From pilots, nurses, flight attendants, expectant mothers and runners to passengers taking a long haul flight. In the recent past, the use of compression socks or stockings has increased due to the ever-changing lifestyle of the current generation. People are becoming less active which affects the flow of blood in the system. With the growth in the use of compression stockings, there is also a growing curiosity about which are the best compression socks to wear and what factors do you need to consider when buying your pair. Today we seek to satisfy this quest with an in-depth analysis of all you need to know in order to help you select the best compression socks for yourself!
How Important is Blood Circulation?
First, your body contains 60,000 miles of blood vessels. To put his into perspective, the entire United States is only 2,802 miles across your body. The blood vessels play a critical role in delivering oxygen and nutrients throughout the body and also transport waste away from the organs and muscles.
If the blood vessels in your feet are not working properly, then all kinds of problems can occur. You can notice numbness or coldness in your legs and feet, or get a wobbly feeling at times. This can also result in wounds in healing slower than normal. Other problems such as dry skin, erectile dysfunction or dry skin are common as well.
Poor Blood Flow Can Lead to Severe Health Concerns
Other culprits of obstructed blood flow include obesity and diabetes. Peripheral artery disease occurs when accumulates in the blood vessels. If left unchecked, peripheral artery disease leads to varicose veins, leg swelling, and other problems. Another rare disorder caused by Raynaud’s disease can also lead to lower body circulation issues. Scientists still aren’t sure what causes Raynaud’s disease but what they know is that it affects middle-aged women living in cold climates.
One way to improve circulation in your feet is by wearing compression legwear. Compression legwear squeezes the leg tissues and walls of your veins. This compression forces the blood in the legs into narrower channels. The increase in lower body arterial pressure, in turn, makes it easier for the blood to return to your heart.
Compression socks offer a variety of health benefits. Athletes also use them to improve their performance and also reduce the chances of injury. People with leg diseases like varicose veins, deep vein thrombosis (DVT), etc, wear them to ease pain and stop the condition from progressing. Pregnant women, people who stand for long periods and people recovering from surgery use these socks as well.
But before using these socks make sure to check with your doctor, especially if you have any serious health issues. But some people should not use these socks. These include those who suffer from septic phlebitis, ischemia, heart failure, and other diseases.
Compression Therapy and Body Physiology
Hemodynamics or haemodynamics is the study of blood flow. Scientists estimate that the circulatory system in the human body stretches 66,000 miles, more than two and a half times the circumference of the Earth. That is mind-blowing. Think about it, the blood needs to ‘travel’ through all this distance several times daily. Actually, scientists further claim that the average human heart beats (Expand and contract) 100,000 times daily.
Pumping of blood throughout the body is not a walk in the park. This is true especially when blood needs to flow back to the heart from the extremities of the body. Blood flowing back to the heart from the legs flows against gravity. To understand why we need compression socks, we need to understand the flow of blood from the legs back to the heart.
Blood flow from the legs to the heart flows in the deep veins. The flow is facilitated by pressure applied by a series of venous valves which forces the blood up and prevents it from flowing backward. The valves function to keep blood moving in one direction. Movement of the leg squeezes the veins, which pushes the blood toward the heart. This mechanism is called the Muscle pump.
Healthy legs have veins with smooth, elastic walls that are perfectly designed to adapt to the changes in pressure within a vein. Unfortunately, venous valves may be damaged by varicose or thrombosis causing the veins to dilate and the valves fail to close properly. This causes blood to flow backward into the vein and hence blood pools in the lower veins of the leg. As a result, the legs will swell. The legs will also become tired and sometimes painful. Standing for long hours may also apply pressure on the venous valves hence causing the same effects.
How Do Compression Socks Help?
In the scenario that your venous valves are defective or you want to prevent that from happening, compression socks will be your hero. Think about it, compression socks creates some artificial ‘muscle pump’ which helps blood to flow back to the heart naturally. They apply gentle pressure to the leg which in turn allows the venous veins to operate at optimum efficiency. That is why you may need one! But our main question remains on which is the best compression legwear? How do I choose from the wide pool available? Which material? Do I need a prescription? We’ll tackle all these questions today!
Factors To Consider When Buying Compression Socks
We are living in a world that is filled with a multitude of ‘peer reviews’. Almost everything nowadays has been reviewed by previous buyers with the thought of helping other buyers. Actually, this seems to work wonders as you will find out that items with better peer reviews tend to sell more than those without. But there is a great question that needs to be answered before we can completely put our buying confidence in peer reviews. How comes that one person has a great experience with an item while another happens to have completely opposite experience? One customer is satisfied while the other is completely dissatisfied.
It is important to note that while peer reviews are a wonderful way to rate a product, they do not always reflect the expectations of the buyer. That is why you’ll need a deeper understanding of the product you are seeking to buy especially when the product is of medical use. So, it is wonderful to check the peer reviews, but most importantly, it is prudent to have a deeper understanding of what product you are buying.
Read the Product Descriptions
Some people have ended up with injuries for wearing the wrong compression socks. For instance, someone who is allergic to latex did not consider the material used is the compression stockings but just checked on the best-rated ones and bought one. There are several factors that we need to put into consideration when buying them and choosing our best pair. Below we’ll seek to discuss these factors in-depth.
Compression Therapy Guide
Compression socks come in different levels of compression. Depending on the use, you may need different levels of compression. They also come in different styles to fit the different needs that are there, For instance, one person may need a pair of graduated compression socks while the other person just needs a pair of compression socks with uniform compression. Let’s look at the five broad compression levels that are available in the market today.
- Mild Compression Socks – they have the lowest compression level of between 8 – 15 millimeters of mercury (mmHg). Generally used to relieve the body from mild symptoms such as fatigued limbs
- Medium Compression Socks – with a compression level of 15 – 20 millimeters of mercury (mmHg) which allow regular usage.
- High Compression Socks – they have a compression level of 20 – 30 millimeters of mercury (mmHg).
- Extra Firm Compression Socks – the level of compression and firmness is 30 – 40 millimeters of mercury (mmHg).
- RX Compression Socks – you should only consider this level of pressure if prescribed by a physician as they have the highest compression levels.
Types of Compression Socks for Different Treatments
Apart from considering the levels of compression, it is also important to consider the type of compression before buying them. We’ll look at three types of compression that are available in the market today.
1. Graduated compression socks
Although all the compression socks have some level of compression, the pattern may differ depending on the use. Graduated compression stockings/socks exert the greatest degree of compression at the ankle, and the level of compression gradually decreases up the garment. This allows blood to force from the lower extremities and facilitates a natural flow of blood back to the heart. They are used to treat edema but can also be considered in reducing dizziness caused by feeling lightheaded. Most of them are manufactured with quality material and consistency to ensure that the gradual compression is well distributed.
2. Anti-embolism compression stockings
Just like graduated compression stockings, the feature compression that is greatest at the ankle and gradually reduces as you go up the garment. They, however, offer more compression pressure than normal gradient compression stockings. Mainly are designed to reduce the risk of deep vein thrombosis (DVT). You should note that they are designed for bedridden patients.
3. Non-medical support hosiery
Unlike graduated compression legwear, non-medical support hosiery provides uniform compression. The compression exerted is less compared to the graduated ones. You can use them without a prescription. Non-medical support hosiery includes flight socks and elastic support socks, often used to relieve tired, heavy and aching legs.
There you have it! if you need to get the best compression stockings/socks you’ll have to define what compression levels and type of compression you need before you purchase your pair. Later in this article, I’ll be giving recommendations on various conditions.
What are They Made Of?
Finding compression legwear that are breathable, not too thick but also not too thin can be a tricky task. Compression sleeves are as good as the material they are made of. Depending on the type of use, different materials are used in combination to bring maximum comfort to the wearer. While the material should be a good absorbent, it should not be too bulky to the legs. So how do you choose good material?
In 1959, Spandex was created and patented at DuPont. It was as close to natural rubber in terms of strength and elasticity but also resistant to certain chemicals and sunlight. This was a new dawn for elastic clothing. Spandex has been used widely in the making of compression garments due to its elasticity. To achieve the best results, spandex and natural rubber are combined with different materials to enhance comfort. When spandex and nylon are combined, the material is lightweight and also helps wick away sweat and moisture from your feet.
Other materials that are used for the manufacturing of compression legwear including bamboo rayon, merino wool, polyamide/nylon, and polypropylene. In most cases, the materials are used in combination. The proper combination of materials helps with moisture management, thermoregulation, and odor control. Merino wool is mainly used in high-end compression products. The material is durable, soft and fast drying.
Overall, you need to decide which one you would be most comfortable with unless you need them for medical purposes. In this case, your doctor will advise you on the best option.
Variations of Compression Socks
Compression socks/stockings come in a variety of styles and lengths.
There are three main styles of compression stockings/socks with different modifications to fit your particular needs. Depending on the underlying reason for wearing the compression sleeves, you may need a specific style of socks. The following are the main styles of compression socks;
- Knee High Compression Socks– Just as the name suggests reach the height of the knees. They are available in many colors in open and closed-toe styles. Mainly used to improve circulation and prevent blood clots in the lower leg.
- Thigh High Compression Socks– They reach the height of the thighs and are used in sclerotherapy. Sclerotherapy is a medical procedure used to eliminate varicose veins and spider veins. They can be used to treat varicose veins and spider veins. They are also available in many colors in open and open-toe styles.
You should also choose a style which will fit perfectly with your attire. Retailers will give you an option from which you can choose from. You can choose from plain colors to a blend of colors, depending on your desire and use.
Reasons to Wear Compression Socks
Reasons for getting compression stockings/socks may vary depending on the condition or symptoms. Below are some of the symptoms you may require to get yourself compression therapy:
- Pregnancy-related swelling
- Varicose Veins
- Swelling, blood clots, or pain in the lower legs known as DVT (Deep Vein Thrombosis)
- Poor Circulation from sitting for long periods
- Post-Sclerotherapy and post-surgical treatment
These medical-grade socks are used as a preventative measure to maintain healthy legs for anybody who spends most of their time on their feet, which if you think about it, it’s basically everyone, every occupation. Quite simply when standing for long periods, gravity forces increase the pressure in the veins of the lower limbs where the impact of the forces happens mostly at the ankle and decreases gradually up the leg and body.
This pressure depends on the vertical distance of the column of blood from the foot to the heart. This is why compression legwear are designed with the most pressure centered at the ankle and decreases as you move up the leg thus countering the effects of the venous pressures.
These products are put in the morning upon rising before any significant swelling can occur and removing it at night. Throughout the day compression socks prevent blood from pooling in leg veins, in turn, helping the overall circulation and eliminate any leg swelling (edema).
How to Use Wear Compression Wear?
If you have leg trauma or recently had surgery, then your doctor may prescribe circulation legwear during the and after a hospital stay. You can also buy this product from a medical supply store or pharmacy.
These socks are won after unhealthy leg symptoms diagnoses to reduce some of the discomfort or swelling. Previously they were won after acute DVT to negate post-thrombotic syndrome but this is no longer the case.
Since gradient socks are tight and elastic, applying lotion to your skin before wearing them will help the material glide up your leg. But make sure that the lotion is well absorbed into the skin before putting on the stockings.
Putting on support socks will require grabbing the top of the socks, rolling it down toward the heel, putting your foot inside the socks and slowly unrolling the socks up your leg.
It is recommended that you continuously wear socks throughout the day and only removing it during bedtime. Taking care of the socks will require washing the socks with mild soap and air drying it. You should also replace your compression legwear every four to six months.
Because you will be using the compression socks daily, you can purchase 2 pairs so that when one is washed, you can use the second pair. You should also replace them every four to six months.
Who Should Wear Them?
People who have medical conditions or due to the nature of their jobs and all travelers can benefit from the use of circulation legwear. Those with a higher risk of blood clots and swelling such as obese people, pregnant ladies, people with clotting problems, people with varicose veins or those who had blood clots in the past can benefit from wearing them. But beware that if your condition is severe, you should seek a prescription from your doctor.
Due to the long hours on flights, wearing circulation legwear will help your blood circulate due to the pressure applied to the ankles and calf. This will minimize the chances of developing blood clots or swelling.
Who Should Avoid Wearing Them?
While most travelers can wear flight stockings without any major issues, they might not be suitable for those with select medical conditions. Circulation legwear can be uncomfortable for people with open wounds on their legs or patients with severe peripheral arterial disease.
Those with poor circulation, damage to the nerves in the feet from diseases such as diabetes or otherwise and skin infections should first seek a prescription from a doctor as support stockings might not be ideal for them.
Wearing Compression Socks to Combat DVT
Deep vein thrombosis (DVT) is rare for healthy individuals but when traveling for long distances, there are several ways in which you can minimize the risk of developing DVT. It is a condition where a blood clot forms in the deep veins usually in the leg which in turn results in blocked veins thus hindering blood flow. This condition can occur after sitting still for long periods when traveling either in the air, train or bus.
Tips to Prevent DVT
If traveling for 3 hours or more by train, car or plane, follow the following steps during the journey to reduce the risk of developing deep vein thrombosis (DVT).
- Wear loose comfortable clothes
- Do calf excises at least every 30 min. You can do this by raising your heels, keeping your toes on the floor then bringing them down 10 times. Then raise and lower your toes 10 times.
- Hydrate while on the journey
- Avoid taking alcohol or sleeping pills.
- Whenever you get the chance – walk around
Who is at Risk of DVT?
There are some health conditions that may put you at risk of developing DVT on long journeys. You are at the high-risk group of developing deep vein thrombosis (DVT) if you:
- Have cancer
- Have a history of pulmonary embolism
- Have had a stroke in the past
- Have a heart disease
- Tend to get blood clots
- Undergone surgery recently especially in the legs
- Are obese
- You are pregnant or have had a baby in the previous 6 weeks
- Taking estrogen-containing medicines.
If you suspect you are at risk of developing DVT, you can seek help from your health provider. You can take extra precautions by wearing flight stockings during the journey.
Recovering from DVT
If you have had DVT recently, you are probably taking medicine to prevent new blood clots. If this is the case, the medicine will protect you from developing another DVT. So the risk of developing DVT is lower and there should be no reason why you cannot travel. Speak to your healthcare provider before traveling if you have any concerns. Compression stockings/socks will also come in handy in helping the blood circulate through your feet to your heart.
Benefits of Wearing Compression Socks
Circulation legwear offer a variety of health benefits to users. It provides pressure to the ankles and calves thus reducing swelling and DVT when traveling. The pressure applied helps improve blood flow in your legs back to your heart.
Employees whose work entails standing up for long periods can reduce the chance of getting swollen feet by utilizing circulation legwear. The graduated socks will invigorate the feet and legs by alleviating muscle stiffness caused by the lack of movement.
Pregnant women will find immediate relief from aching and swollen feet when they use compression socks. They offer a comfortable, cooling effect and are easy to put on.
Speedy injury recovery
Doctors recommend using compression socks to naturally stimulate the healing of the body. They are helpful after a patient has undergone surgery and when managing chronic illnesses and pain. But be sure to consult your healthcare provider as compression legwear are not recommended for some medical conditions.
Sitting or standing for long periods of time might be at risk of developing deep vein thrombosis (DVT). The lack of mobility when traveling causes low blood flow and puts a traveler at risk of dangerous blood clots. This is why flight personnel incorporates circulation stockings in the routine for pain-free traveling.
Athletes claim that wearing compression legwear during the activity helps improve their performance. Wearing compression socks during and post workouts will improve muscle recovery. Wearing the stockings will naturally alleviate lactic acid from building up and reduce wear and tear on the muscle.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q. What is the difference between graduated and uniform compression socks?
A. Graduated compression stockings sometimes referred to as gradient or graded compression stockings are specifically designed to place most pressure around the ankle and foot. The farther you move up your leg, the pressure decreases. On the other hand, uniform compression hosiery distributes compression pressure evenly throughout the socks. In addition to being relatively easier to put on compared to uniform compression stockings, graduated support stockings are also more effective. That’s why most medical circulation support socks are graduated type.
Q. How much compression do I need?
A. Compression socks rated at :
- (8-15 mmHg) are considered mild and are useful for pain relief and swelling reduction.
- (15-20 mmHg) help stop the development of varicose veins.
- (20-30 mmHg). Firm compression socks help manage ulcers and prevent post-surgery blood clotting.
- (30-40 mmHg) are used to treat severe edema and lymphedema.
- (40-50 mmHg) are useful for treating chronic venous insufficiency and other severe conditions involving vein dysfunction.
Q. Do compression socks boost sports performance?
A. A recent study published by the US National Library of Medicine suggests that compression socks do not help marathon runners run faster or longer. However, the same study also indicated that wearing them do prevent inflammation and help reduce muscle and feet pain.
Compression Socks: Tips and Tricks
Check with your doctor first. Make sure that you seek medical advice before buying a compression stocking. These socks can be harmful if you choose the wrong compression strength.
Use talcum powder. If you have trouble putting on or removing your compression hosiery, try using powder on your skin as this can help the stocking glide on your skin.
Don’t wear socks when the feet are swollen. The most appropriate time to wear these socks is early in the morning before any activity. If you have been walking without them for a long period of time, you should try elevating your legs for a while until the swelling subsides before putting them on.
Adjust throughout the day. Circulation legwear will not work properly if you are not wearing them correctly. So if you feel that you are uncomfortable, them readjust so that you can get its benefits.
Best get a pair of compression socks for yourself for better leg health now!
Compression socks are useful when trying to prevent certain medical conditions as stated above. They are used to increase blood flow from your feet to your heart by preventing the pooling of blood around your ankles. But you must get medical advice when searching for compression stockings/socks. However, lower-grade compression strengths can be purchased over the counter either in your local pharmacy or online shop. Higher compression strengths will need a prescription from a doctor as they can be more harmful if you put on a wrong compression level. The price range of the socks will also influence the choice of compression socks you choose but there are many types of compression legwear available and choosing one should not be a problem. After reading through the above guide, it should be relatively easy to get your compression legwear. We hope that it has been helpful!