Compression stockings are specially designed stockings that gently massage the feet and legs as you wear them. They do this by applying pressure on the legs and feet to improve circulation. They also prevent the pooling of fluids at the feet.
There are many reasons why people wear these stockings. They have helped people of different careers and health conditions. They are commonly worn by nurses, marathon runners, and other people who are on their feet. Some conditions such as diabetes put patients at risk of developing peripheral edema. When you wear compression stockings, it will solve this problem.
There are three main types of compression wear.
Graduated Compression Stockings
This type of stockings is designed with the strongest level of compression at the ankle that gradually releases at the knees. This type of stockings requires fitting by a professional.
They are designed for ambulatory patients. They are also designed under specific medical specifications. These specifications include hosiery, consistency, and durability.
Those that end just below the knee help to limit the effects of peripheral edema or lower leg swelling due to fluid buildup. These are good for diabetes patients.
On the other hand, there are Graduated Compression Stockings that extend to the waist or thighs. They help to reduce the pooling of blood in the legs and prevent orthostatic hypotension. This condition causes a fall in blood pressure when a person stands or sits; a harmful situation.
These types of stockings come in different colors and in open-toe variations. Nurses often wear colorful ones with bright patterns.
These stockings are designed to reduce the risk of deep vein thrombosis or DVT. This is when a blood clot forms in the veins of the legs or lower thighs. This clot can travel through the bloodstream to the lungs which puts a person at risk of pulmonary embolism. This is a harmful condition that is fatal.
Like the graduated variation, they offer gradient compression. They are specially designed for bed-ridden patients and come in sock and stockings options. A patient can even wear one compression sock if only one is required.
Non-Medical Support Hosiery
This type of compression sock does not need a prescription. They are often used to provide relief for heavy and tired legs. They offer less compression. Unlike the first two, the offer uniform compression from knees or thighs to toes.
Non-Medical Support Hosiery compression wear has no strict medical or technical specifications and so they can be bought over the counter. They include elastic support stockings and flight stockings.
When you wear compression stockings, you can expect several benefits. The first one is improved circulation, especially in the legs. They offer pressure that helps with blood flow. This is very important in the legs, as it is where valves tend to fail and cause pooling. Improved circulation treats symptoms of varicose veins and peripheral edema.
Athletes who wear these stockings during training or during a race experience some unique benefits. For starters, they offer protection from the elements and reduce the chances of bites and scratches. They also offer warmth during the cold season by keeping your blood flowing.
Common Side-Effects of Compression Stockings (and their causes)
The use of these stockings is not a one size fits all type of case. They come in different levels of pressure for people with different needs. If you fail to understand this from the beginning, then you may experience some harmful side effects.
The first side-effect you may experience is discomfort. Discomfort during the first few days is quite normal. This is a tighter sock than you are used to and the pressure applied on your legs and feet should feel uncomfortable at first.
However, within a few days, you should feel less and less uncomfortable. For some people, this discomfort does not go away. You may experience harmful pain while wearing, or pain when you take them off.
This is often a question of the level of pressure and keeping them on them at night. If you have a prescription of compression wear that is too much for you, then you will experience discomfort and even pain. You can easily rectify this by getting a professional fitting and prescription.
At night, you should take them off when you sleep. This is because you will have elevated your feet which offers the same effect.
Another side-effect of compression wear is irritation and itching. If you have recently started putting on these stockings or switched to a new pair, you may notice irritation and itching on the legs and feet. This is mostly due to an allergic reaction to the fiber materials. You can rectify this with a simple allergy test and switch to a more comfortable fabric.
Corns and calluses are fairly common in people who have started wearing compression stockings. They develop as hardened layers of skin when the skin tries to protect itself against pressure, and friction. If you have developed these, then your stockings are too tight.
If you notice tingling, and numbness in your feet after or when you put on compression stockings, then your stockings are too tight. Paresthesia, which is commonly known as ‘pins and needles’ is a sensation of prickling, tingling, and numbness of the skin. It is caused by putting on compression stockings that are too tight.
Finally, you could also experience an unpleasant smell from your stockings. This is a question of washing and properly drying them. It is always advisable to wash your stockings and have an extra pair or two to switch out with. Always ensure that they are perfectly dry before you wear them.
So, can wearing compression stockings cause you harm? The answer is yes but only if you are doing it wrong. They are not harmful to you, especially if you follow your doctor’s advice. When in doubt, you can always stick to these basic dos and don’ts of compression stockings.
Do get a professional to measure your legs and feet before buying. As already established, the wrong size of compression stockings has side-effects on your body. Therefore, it is best to have a professional fit you for a pair.
Do put them on first thing in the morning. The conditions and situations that compression stockings help with often happen during the day. Therefore, it would make sense that you put them on in the morning before you start your day. Whatsmore, your legs are the least swollen in the morning, so wearing the stockings will be much easier and less harmful.
Do replace them every 3 to 6 months. Compression wear features a lot of elastic fibers. With time, these fibers will break down or weaken. When you notice that they are sagging, or have become easier to put on, then it is time to replace them.
Finally, do wash and dry your compression stockings properly. These stockings often have care labels and instructions on how to wash and dry them. Those that are washable in a washing machine should be placed in a mesh bag to protect them against damage.
If you are washing them by hand, use cold water and a mild detergent to protect the elasticity of the stockings. Roll them up in a towel to pat out the excess water, then hang them to dry.
Don’t roll them up to put them on or take them off. Rolling up the stockings makes a very tight band that cuts off circulation to your legs. Therefore, try as much as possible not to roll them up.
Don’t alter them. Avoid cutting off any part of the sock as it could make them roll up and cut circulation to the leg. Instead, consider variations such as open-toe compression stockings or compression sleeves.
Don’t wear them at night. Unless your doctor has insisted, you should never wear your compression stockings at night. When you lie down, your feet are elevated, providing the same effect as compression wear. Adding graduated compression is unnecessary and may cause swelling, and even pain.
If you want to improve circulation at night, try elevating your feet on a pillow. This way, your legs are above your heart level, facilitating proper blood flow.
Finally, don’t wring them out. You should always treat your compression stockings gently so that you do not damage their elastic structure. Therefore, avoid wringing and intense scrubbing altogether.
In conclusion, compression stockings have a lot of benefits that can turn into side effects if not used properly. It is always best to seek medical advice before you wear them in order to get the best fit, and size for you. If not, they can be harmful to your health. Care of your compression wear is crucial to leg health so always ensure that you are taking care of your stockings.