Just as you were coming around to the idea of wearing compression socks, you hear something chilling. Apparently, someone’s great aunt Sally fell asleep with her compression socks on and nearly lost her foot!
Now you’re thinking, “Is a little swelling really so bad? I mean, if the alternative is losing a foot, I can learn to live with my cankles.”
Don’t get me wrong–I respect great aunt Sally. But her near amputation experience isn’t common and would rarely be possible under most circumstances. That’s why, in today’s article, we’ll be dispelling common myths about compression socks and answering the question: “Is it safe to wear compression socks for 24 hours at a time?”
Compression socks are widely used and often recommended by doctors. One of the reasons compression sleeves are so popular is that they are a safe alternative for managing blood circulation. Our aim is to walk you through the proper use of compression socks. Let’s start by taking a look at how these stockings and socks can help your blood circulation.
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How Do Compression Socks Work?
Sometimes, your veins need a little help getting blood back to the heart. Usually this help comes from the calf muscle acting as a small pump. As you walk and move about, muscle contractions help to keep the blood moving up towards the heart.
While this works well enough for healthy kids who can’t stay still for more than 10 minutes, most adults have to sit all day, which prevents the calf muscle from doing its job.
By wearing compression socks, you are providing a small amount of external pressure to the veins within your legs. This pressure helps the valves in your veins to effectively keep blood flowing up to your heart.
When the valves are functioning well, they can also prevent blood from pooling in your feet. This prevents edema, or swelling, caused from liquid leaking out of small blood vessels and into the adjacent tissues.
Graduated compression stockings are designed to be tightest around the ankles, with the pressure easing up towards the knees. Your physician will recommend the pressure specification of the stockings you should use. Pressure ratings for compression socks will be written as mmHg (millimeters of mercury).
Are Compression Socks for You?
The truth is, more people will benefit from compression socks than won’t. But it is always important to understand your body and any underlying medical conditions before using medical-grade compression products.
For instance, if you regularly experience swelling in your feet, the best thing to do is to first consult a physician. Determine the cause of your edema, then ask the physician if compression socks are right for you.
In some cases, an underlying condition may render compression socks ineffective. If your doctor OKs the use of compression socks, ask them to confirm the level of compression that would suit you best.
Who Should Wear Compression Socks?
Take a look at our extensive list of who can benefit from wearing compression socks. If you answer yes to any of the questions below, then you are an excellent candidate for compression stockings.
- Do you sit all day?
- Do you stand all day?
- Are you going on a long flight?
- Do you suffer from edema frequently?
- Are you seeking relief from painful varicose veins?
- Has your doctor recommended compression therapy?
- Are you pregnant and suffering from swollen feet and ankles?
- Are you at risk of developing deep vein thrombosis (DVT)?
- After an exercise session, are your legs tired and achy long after your work out?
Who Shouldn’t Wear Compression Socks?
Some medical conditions will preclude you from wearing compression hosiery altogether. This list is by no means conclusive, though. That’s why it’s important to consult a physician to ensure that compression therapy is right for you. It is best to avoid compression socks in the following instances:
- Those suffering from ischaemia – This disease affects how your arteries distribute oxygenated blood to your extremities. The added compression can cause further complications to an already weak circulatory system.
- If you’re allergic to the materials used to make the compression garments.
- Those suffering from skin sensitization disorders – For example, peripheral neuropathy caused by damage to the nerves in your extremities. An important part of compression therapy is properly fitting the socks to suit the shape of your leg. If your nerves are damaged, your body will not be able to transmit sensations of discomfort, like whether the socks are too tight, for instance. That could cause additional complications.
- If you have complications arising from diabetes or congestive heart failure – Although compression can help to relieve some of the swelling caused by these chronic conditions, it is not suitable for all cases. Consult your physician before use.
- If your compression socks are Doc Socks or Sock Soothers – Customers who have purchased from these companies have left many complaints and negative reviews. The Better Business Bureau is currently monitoring these companies as potential scams.
How Long is Too Long for Compression Socks?
Pressure stockings and compression socks help your veins to counter the effects of gravity. That’s why they are recommended for those who sit or stand for long periods. However, at the end of the day, you can simply elevate your legs and let gravity do the work for you.
In some cases, a physician may recommend that you wear compression garments at night. This may be advised for those who have recently had surgery and are at risk of developing a blood clot. In most cases, light compression garments will be recommended for nightwear.
Unless your physician specifically asks you to keep your pressure socks on at night, take them off when you’re going to bed. Your skin deserves a break at the end of the day. Removing the compression socks will allow for better airflow and healthier skin.
However, if you are on your feet for 24 hours or are sitting for a long 20-hour flight, keeping your compression garments on is a good idea. As long as you wear them correctly, your compression socks will work for you and not against you.
Effects of Wearing Compression Socks Too Long
It’s important to note that the health benefits of compression therapy far outweigh the minor side effect risks. However, some people do have minor reactions to long-term use of compression garments including:
- Broken skin
- Skin irritation
- Temporary impressions on the skin
If your compression socks don’t fit properly or are worn non-stop for days at a time, you may also develop cones and calluses or experience having your circulation completely cut off. It is important to wear your compression socks as prescribed for a safe and beneficial experience.
How to Wear Your Compression Socks
Since compression stockings and socks are designed for a snug fit, they can be a little tricky to put on. If you have an aversion to reading manuals, make an exception this one time and follow the steps below when putting on your compression stockings.
Step 1: Turn the socks inside out.
Reach into the sock and get a hold of the heel area. Pull it outwards, creating a little pocket for your foot. Do not pull out the entire leg length.
Step 2: Put the sock onto the heel.
When you insert your foot into the little pocket you have made, don’t try to pull the sock up to the knee just yet. Instead, focus on fitting your sock onto the heel.
Step 3: Pull the sock up to the middle of your shin.
Reach for the overlap that is currently covering your toes. Grasp the overlapped fabric and pull it up towards the knee. You will want to do this in one fluid motion to keep the sock from forming wrinkles.
Step 4: Pull the remaining fold up to your knee.
With the last motion, ensure that you smooth out any gathers and folds that may have formed. Wrinkles in the fabric could increase the pressure on a section of your leg, leading to circulatory problems and discomfort.
Your sock should feel snug but comfortable. If you feel that it is causing you pain, this could be an indication that your compression socks are too small.
If you went to a catholic school, fight the urge to fold the socks at the top. Folds may cause too much pressure around the knee area and keep your blood from circulating properly.
In conclusion, how long you wear your compression socks is based on your particular needs. Your legs will mostly need help to counter gravity when they are below you, whether you’re seated or standing. Once your legs are elevated, it becomes a lot easier for blood to travel back to the heart, which is the primary objective of the veins in your legs.
Some people may only need compression sleeves for long flights. Others may need them for everyday wear. Compression therapy, like most forms of treatment, doesn’t have a “one size fits all” solution. It is always advised to consult a physician to find out what options will work best for you.
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