Have you ever gone to work in the morning feeling like you can conquer the world, but when you reached home at the end of your long work shift, your feet and legs were achy and swollen as big as an elephant’s? Because I have! Whenever I am on my feet too much, or maybe even when I’m sitting for too long, I find that my legs get so “bloated” and sore. This “bloating” is called edema and it is one of the most common leg symptoms that people face nowadays. Today, we are going to talk about how wearing compression socks can prevent and treat those achy, swollen legs and feet to keep edema away.
What is Edema?
First, let’s hit the basics. Edema is a health condition in which the body parts swell due to a number of reasons like injury or inflammation. It can occur to any part of the body but the lower legs are the most common affected, mainly due to gravity. Edema occurs due to excessive fluid accumulation, or water retention, in the interstitial space surrounding the blood vessels.
When your legs swell, it can affect your ankles and feet too. Your skin surface may appear “shiny” because of the fluid trapped/build-up in the surrounding body tissues underneath your skin and the leaking of fluids from your veins.
Two Types of Edema
Pedal and peripheral are the two types of edema that most commonly cause swelling in the legs, ankles, and feet. Pedal edema may be due to temporary conditions, a venous or lymphatic obstruction, or it can be a symptom of an underlying disease. Peripheral edema results from excess fluid diffused into tissues from the peripheral vascular system. Both forms of edema can make it difficult to walk and wear shoes. When pressed, a pit or indentation in the swollen skin may remain.
What Causes Edema?
Reasons that Cause Legs to Swell
Edema is caused mainly due to poor blood or lymphatic circulation. Sitting or standing for too long are the number one reasons for edema to occur. After that, malnutrition, low plasma protein, and renal and endocrine regulation disorders are other causes. Edema is also a condition that is common for patients with congestive heart failure, liver and kidney disease, nutritional deficiencies and pregnant women, especially during the third trimester.
As mentioned above, edema is also a common symptom especially following an injury. For example, bumping into something or spraining an ankle can result in edema. That is because additional tissue fluid is summoned to help speed up the healing process. As the healing progresses, the excess fluid will slowly leave the body part and the swelling will go down.
Who is at Risk of Edema?
As mentioned above, standing or sitting for too long is the number one reason legs may swell and ache. If you think about it, it’s literally every occupation and everyone in the whole world! Let’s look at who is on the list.
- Office workers
- Security Guards
- Flight attendants
- Frequent travelers
- Pregnant women
The list can go on and on. All of the people above and more are at risk of suffering from edema due to extended periods of sitting and standing each day. Besides edema, these people are also at risk of getting other leg diseases associated with poor blood circulation in the legs, like:
- Venous reflux disease (Chronic venous insufficiency)
- Varicose veins
- Spider veins
- Deep vein thrombosis (DVT)
- Venous ulcers
Venous Reflux Disease
Chronic Venous Insufficiency is also known as Venous Reflux Disease. It is a condition where your vein valves are damaged and are unable to function the way they should. Typically, venous valves consist of two elastic tissue flaps that open and close in alternation, basically pumping blood back to the heart.
When these valves are weak or damaged, your blood flow can be altered and start to flow backward causing the blood to pool in the lower extremities. Why the legs you wonder? Because the body must move your blood towards the heart against the gravitational effect, which is the law of nature that makes everything stick as close to the core of the earth (duh). In this case, your blood. This is why your body relies on these venous valves and muscle contractions to push the blood upward to your heart. In case you don’t realize that yet, healthy blood circulation is the key to lasting health, my dear readers.
Unfortunately, due to sitting and standing all day (the ultimate murderer of healthy blood flow), we are bound to get some unhealthy leg symptoms. Some are more severe than others. These medical conditions, if left untreated, could lead to a health crisis. I kid you not! Let’s reel it back in before I scare everyone off this article.
Too put it in a simple format for you to understand easier:
Standing or sitting too long ➡️Tired leg muscles & Damaged venous valves ➡️Poor blood circulation in the legs ➡️Edema
See, it’s not so hard to understand how and why your legs are swelling and aching, is it? Although edema is not a severe leg symptom, it can cause some serious discomforts in the legs, ankles, and feet. There are some remedies online that suggest you lean your legs on the wall while lying with your back on the floor or the bed for 30 minutes every day to reduce the soreness and edema. The logic behind this is to let the blood flow directly to your heart when you raise your legs high, basically negating gravity. But man, I ain’t got time for that ****! 😒
Edema- Best Treatment and Prevention
Wearing Compression Socks/Stockings for Better Blood Flow
While the above remedy is direct and most probably effective, it is hard to maintain that as a habit every day. I did try it before and after doing that for 10 minutes or so, your legs will start to feel numb and uncomfortable, which made it hard to maintain the exercise. Plus, I want to watch TV after work, not stare at the ceilings contemplating my life for 30 minutes while not being able to feel my legs. 😩
This is where I tell you the secret to prevent and treat edema- wearing compression stockings or compression socks. Compression socks and compression stockings are medical devices created to treat and prevent unhealthy leg conditions, edema and Venous Reflux Disease included. They are knitted from a variety of materials that will stretch and hug your legs tightly but without causing them to be uncomfortable.
How Do They Work?
The difference between regular socks/stockings and compression socks/stockings is that compression socks exert pressure on the legs that helps accelerate and promote blood flow in the legs. The pressure they exert is highest around the ankle and decreases as they go up the calf, to the knee or thigh (depending on what length of compression socks/stockings you go for). This distribution of pressure is called graduated or gradient compression pressure and it helps your muscles push your blood upwards against gravity. This is highly efficient in combating any poor leg condition or even just to ease the discomfort of your lower extremities by improving blood circulation.
When Should You Wear Compression Socks/Stockings?
Wearing compression stockings/socks is the most time-efficient exercise you can practice every day to maintain healthy legs. They look like your regular socks or stockings that you wear to work every day. Since every job these days requires individuals to be on their feet or sit throughout the entire shift, it is recommended to wear them regularly. You will notice the visible difference at the end of your workday with your legs feeling much more energized as compared to regular socks.
Although wearing compression socks/stockings is great for treating edema, you can overdo it. A standard 8-10 hours of wear on a daily basis is more than sufficient, any more than that may actually decrease blood flow. Also, do not wear compression leg wear to bed as it could cause blood flow disruption in the lower extremities. Why is that? When you sleep, your legs and your heart are on the same horizontal level making it unnecessary to wear them while your sleep.
The Final Reminder
Choosing the Right Compression Pressure Level
Compression socks are the superheroes to your unhealthy leg conditions nightmare, but choosing the compression leg wear with the right compression pressure level is the key to combat edema.
Compression socks of 15-20 mmHg exert light to moderate compression pressure on your legs and make a great introduction for someone that never worn compression leg wear before. This level is great for ordinary daily use. This level of compression pressure helps reduce minor to moderate leg conditions like varicose and spider veins, edema, as well as aching and soreness of the legs and feet.
Consult a doctor if you are unsure of which compression pressure level you should go for before purchasing your compression socks.
Any compression pressure higher than 20 mmHg is considered as medical-grade and are used to treat more severe leg conditions. For a more detailed compression therapy guide, click on the magical link portal and it will transport you there. I will briefly mention here that a compression pressure above 40 mmHg is considered very high and needs to be prescribed by a doctor. DO NOT self-prescribe this level of compression socks and stockings as it can be harmful if worn by the wrong person.
No More Achy and Swelling Legs!
I hope you understand both edema and the benefits of compression socks/stockings better by now. Edema is not a severe health crisis but it is a consistent discomfort that can affect our day-to-day life if left untreated. Most importantly, who wants to go for drinks at the bar after work when your legs are in pain and beg you not to go? Other than trying to move around every 30 minutes to stretch the calf muscles, getting a pair of these amazing compression socks for yourself might be the best route to greater leg health.
We want to be part of your journey to better leg health! Healthy leg, healthy life! 🏃
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