You can wear compression stockings to lower your risk of developing serious health issues or for comfort.
Essentially, compression stockings are used to treat health issues related to blood flow problems such as deep vein thrombosis and varicose veins. They can also help reduce leg pain, aching, and swelling by improving blood circulation.
Compression socks can be bought over the counter or prescribed by a doctor. And they can be worn by anyone because they soothe the legs, especially during pregnancy, when traveling or when you have to stand for a long time.
Basically, they offer numerous health benefits particularly to those who are at risk of developing health problems that are associated with poor blood circulation. Or those who already have such problems.
Having said that, how do you go about finding the best compression stockings?
But before getting to that, let’s discuss compression socks more in-depth.
What are compression stockings?
Compression socks are elastic, tight-fitting socks that are specially made to help prevent circulation problems and other health issues. They are made of elastic fibers such as polyester and nylon. And they come in varying compression levels. That is, the degree of pressure a sock is capable of exerting on a leg.
The compression levels are measured in millimeters of mercury (mmHg). Each level indicates the amount of pressure a sock exerts at the top and bottom part of a leg and is indicated in numbers (e.g. 20–30 mmHg). The highest number represents the bottom part, that is the foot and the lowest number represents the top part where the sock reaches. This could be your knee or thigh.
So they are four main compression levels.
- Mild (8-15mmHG)
Mild level compression socks can be bought without a prescription. And they help minimize leg aches and provide relief from tiredness. They also help energize legs and prevent the development of varicose veins in pregnant women.
- Medium (15-20mmHG)
Medium level compression socks are prescribed by a doctor. And they are usually prescribed to people and pregnant women who have swollen and achy legs. They also help to prevent venous disorders such as deep vein thrombosis.
- Firm (20-30mmHG)
Socks with this level of compression are usually prescribed to people who already suffer from a venous disorder like deep vein thrombosis, edema, and varicose veins.
- Extra-firm (30-40mmHG)
These socks are meant for people with severe cases of varicose veins, lymphedema, and edema. They also help relieve symptoms associated with postural hypotension and orthostatic hypotension.
What are the different types of compressions stockings?
Compression socks fall under three main categories.
Graduated compression socks
These socks exert a high degree of pressure around the ankle area and gradually reduce the pressure up the leg. This is to prevent a backward flow of blood to the foot.
Physicians often prescribe them to people who have chronic edema and severe venous disease. Or people who have undergone surgery.
The anti-embolism socks work in the same way as graduated compression socks. But they are not used for treating severe cases of venous disorders. They are used as a preventive measure for people who are at risk of developing venous disorders like deep vein thrombosis. And these are people who are bedridden and cannot be able to walk.
Nonmedical support hosiery
These are nonprescription compression socks. You can buy them over the counter to help relieve achy, tired and/or swollen legs. But, unlike graduated compression socks, these ones usually exert much less pressure. And the pressure is uniform.
Who should wear compression stockings?
Compression socks are designed for:
- People with venous disorders such as varicose veins, edema, deep vein thrombosis, and phlebitis.
- Pregnant women
- People with heavy legs (stiff or tired legs that are difficult to move)
- People who have undergone surgery
- People who spend long hours standing or sitting like nurses and pilots
Although compression socks are beneficial, they are not ideal for:
- Older people
- People with thin, delicate skin
- Malnourished patients
- People who are allergic to fabrics like polyester and nylon
- People who have health conditions such as diabetes, congestive heart failure, Ischaemia, and peripheral neuropathy
Avoid wearing compression socks until your doctor has assessed and cleared you to wear them. Otherwise, you may increase your risk of developing other complications or exacerbating your condition by wearing the socks.
What are the benefits of wearing compression stockings?
Compression socks are known to help prevent and treat a number of health conditions related to blood flow problems. Plus, they also help promote leg health.
That said, here are some of the key benefits of wearing compression socks.
Improve leg circulation and reduce swelling
Legs tend to swell when you stand or sit for many hours, but you can prevent this by wearing compression socks. They help promote blood circulation thereby preventing leg swelling, aching, and tiredness.
This is why they are a good option for pilots, nurses, surgeons, and basically anyone whose work involves standing or sitting for many hours at a time.
Help reduce the risk of developing venous ulcers
Venous ulcers are chronic sores that develop on the lower part of the leg near the ankle area. And this is as a result of a blood flow problem that causes blood to pool in the veins of the legs instead of flowing to the heart. This poor circulation damages the leg valves causing an ulcer to form.
When this occurs, the person may experience a number of symptoms including pain and leg swelling. If the condition is left untreated for a long time, it can cause further health complications.
Usually, leg ulcers are treated using compression therapy, which involves wearing compression socks. The socks not only help treat the condition, but they also help prevent the recurrence of the condition.
They can also help prevent the formation of leg ulcers which occurs in older people and people with certain health conditions.
Help prevent deep vein thrombosis
Deep vein thrombosis is a condition whereby a blood clot forms in the deep veins of the legs. This can be due to health issues that affect the way your blood clots. It can also occur in people who are chronic smokers or obese.
Symptoms associated with the condition include pain and swelling. In some cases, the symptoms may not occur.
Deep vein thrombosis can be treated using compression stockings, which help improve blood circulation and reduce swelling. They are also recommended to people who are at risk of developing this condition.
Aid in relieving symptoms associated with varicose veins
Compression stockings are often recommended to people who have varicose veins to help relieve symptoms associated with the condition. Some of the symptoms include pain, swelling, aching, and cramping.
The symptoms occur due to poor blood circulation around the ankle area. When you wear compression socks, they exert pressure on your legs and ankles causing the blood to flow normally instead of pooling on the lower part of your leg.
Lowers orthostatic hypotension
Orthostatic hypotension or low blood pressure is when your blood pressure suddenly drops. When this happens, particularly when you rise to your feet too quickly, you may feel lightheaded, dizzy, nauseous, and weak.
There are numerous causes of low blood pressure. And some of them include anemia, Parkinson’s disease, diabetes, dehydration, and heart problems.
To reduce the incidences of orthostatic hypotension, your doctor may recommend compression socks. This is due to their ability to exert pressure on your legs improving blood flow.
There are many other health benefits that compression socks offer. This is why they are the mainstay of treatment for conditions associated with blood circulation problems.
How do you wear compression stockings?
Compression stockings come in varying lengths and sizes. They also have varying degrees of compression or pressure.
Some can be bought over the counter, but others require a doctor’s prescription. Compression socks you can buy without a prescription are mainly used to relieve acute leg pain and swelling caused by prolonged sitting or standing.
Compression socks prescribed by a doctor are used to help prevent or treat health conditions or symptoms associated with blood flow problems.
They are varying styles of compression socks. The styles available include knee-high, thigh-high, closed-toe, pantyhose, and waist attachment compression socks. Whichever style you choose or your doctor recommends depends on your condition and its severity. Also, you may need to wear the socks on one or both of your legs.
When wearing compression socks, smooth them out and avoid folding the tops down to prevent them from becoming too tight. If they are too tight at the top, this may cause blood circulation problems. You don’t need to keep the socks on all the time unless your doctor advises so. However, you can remove them before taking a bath or shower.
Some people prefer not to wear compression socks to bed, but there is nothing wrong with it as they increase blood circulation keeping your legs warm. But if you are healthy, there is no need to wear them to bed. However, it is totally up to you whether to keep them on or not when going to bed.
Also, how long you wear compression socks depends on the reason why you need to wear them in the first place. If it’s to prevent swelling owing to standing or sitting for many hours, you may wear them when you are doing so.
If it is to help relieve symptoms associated with blood flow problems, talk to your doctor about how long and how often you have to wear them.
How should I go about choosing compression stockings?
This depends on a number of factors. Do you need them for work? Or are you at high risk of developing a venous disease? Or do you have a condition that requires you to wear compression socks as part of the treatment?
The main reason for wearing compression socks is to improve blood circulation in the legs. But before you chose which compression socks are right for you, talk to your doctor first.
For the reason that there are people with certain medical conditions like heart disease who cannot wear compression socks, as they can exacerbate their condition. The socks are also not recommended for people who are allergic to polyester and nylon.
If you don’t have any underlying health issues and you want to use compression stockings for comfort. Make sure to buy socks that are ideal for you. This is in terms of the degree of compression. If you need socks to reduce mild swelling and aching, the ideal socks are those that have a compression level of between 15-20 mmHg.
Socks with a higher level of compression are usually used to either prevent medical problems related to poor circulation or to treat blood flow problems. But if you are not sure what socks to get, talk to your doctor who is in a better position to advise on the best compression socks to get based on your situation.
Where to get compression stockings?
At Comprogear, we sell knee-high 20-30 mmHg compression socks, which are ideal for treating edema, spider veins, and varicose veins. You can also use them after surgery to help you from developing a venous disorder.
Keep in mind that compression socks can be worn for a number of varying reasons and have different levels of compression. And each level of compression is suitable for treating certain symptoms and conditions associated with blood flow problems.
The main point is that they can help improve blood circulation and boost leg health. But it should be understood that not anyone can wear compression socks and they are not ideal for all situations. So don’t share your socks with anyone else and don’t use someone else’s socks.