What are compression socks?
Compression socks are not your regular type of socks that you can pick up at the store. Compression socks are a specially constructed pair of socks that are made to be tight and snug when worn. This is because it is made of a stretchy fabric that hugs the legs and feet in order to apply pressure onto the legs. In a nutshell, compression socks are as the name suggests; socks that offer compression when they are worn.
Compression socks are not a 21st-century invention; they date back to the New Stone Age. During the Neolithic period, cavemen were actually into this trend long before it was popular. According to paintings that date back to 5000 BCE, soldiers were painted with bandages around their legs. Though researchers are yet to prove that these bandages were a form of compression therapy, it is typically considered to be the very first evidence of compression wear in the world.
Fast forward to a few thousand years where an antique collector purchases the Edwin Smith Papyrus. The Edwin Smith Papyrus is the world’s oldest surgical document written by Edwin Smith that dates back to around 1600 BC. In his document, Edwin Smith recorded the use of bandages to apply pressure on the legs. It was the first scientific documentation of compression therapy.
After another time jump, compression wear ended up in the era of Hippocrates. Hippocrates, a famous doctor (Hippocratic Oath) wrote that he used bandages as a form of compression therapy to prevent the pooling of blood in the legs and feet of his patients.
If it was good enough for Hippocrates then it is definitely good enough for the modern era. Over the next thousands of years, compression therapy was advanced, changes, and modified in different ways to be what it is now. In the 20th century, new methods of compression popped up and compression wear became very popular thanks to socks, stockings, sleeves, and much more. Today, compression wear comes with fastenings such as zippers, are made to match pop culture, icons, themes, holidays, and much more.
What are compression socks used for?
There are many uses of compression socks but the most popular is for managing medical conditions. Over the years, compression socks have been used in managing three main medical conditions; Edema, Varicose Veins, and Deep Vein Thrombosis. Each of these conditions affects the veins of the legs.
Edema is swelling that is caused by excess fluid that is trapped in your body tissues. Edema can affect any part of the body as fluid is trapped in the tissues. However, it often occurs in the legs, feet, ankles, arms, and feet. It usually starts slowly but it can often occur suddenly.
All the tissues in your body are made up of cells, blood vessels, and connective tissues that hold the cells together called the interstitium. Most of the body fluids that are found outside the cells are stored in two spaces. First is in the blood vessels as the liquid or serum portion of your blood, and the second is interstitial spaces that are found outside the cells.
In different instances, the fluids accumulate in one or both of these compartments. When fluid accumulates in the interstitial spaces, it can result in several types of edema. Pulmonary edema is where excess fluids collect in the interstitial spaces in the lungs. This is a dangerous form of edema because it can lead to heart failure or acute lung injury. It puts the patient’s life at risk.
Cerebral edema is where fluid accumulates in the brain. This form of edema can happen due to a number of reasons that are all life-threatening. The patient will often experience nausea, headaches, dizziness, neck pain, stiffness, partial or whole loss of vision, and loss of consciousness.
Finally, there is peripheral edema which affects the legs, knees, ankles, and arms. peripheral edema is caused by sitting or standing for too long, dietary factors such as eating food that has too much salt, hormonal changes as a result of pregnancy, or menstruation, diabetes, allergies, and side effects of drugs such as high blood pressure medication.
Peripheral edema presents symptoms such as swelling or puffiness of tissue directly under your skin. The skin is also stretchy, and shiny; when you press on it, a dimple remains. This is what is called pitting. Because of the swelling, you will experience aching in the legs and feet.
Doctors recommend wearing compression socks to treat symptoms of edema. Compression socks create pressure on the tissues of the body in order to release the build-up of fluids. Patients with edema who wear compression socks notice reduced swelling within days of wearing them. With reduced swelling, other symptoms such as pain, tightness, and warmth also reduce.
Having edema can put you at risk of developing varicose veins. When veins become abnormally thick, swollen, and bulge on the surface of the skin, they are called varicose veins. They often appear on the thighs and legs.
There are two main systems of veins in the body. The first is deep veins; as the name suggests, they are located deeper in the body. The second is the superficial veins that are found close to the surface of the skin. The superficial veins are less important than the deep veins but are the ones that become varicose veins.
Both superficial and deep veins contain one-way valves that are responsible for letting blood flow through by regularly opening and closing. Sometimes, the valves can fail to mean that they will not close properly. When they do not close, blood pools backward into the veins which increases pressure and causes them to budge, and swell. The increased pressure is what causes varicose veins.
Veins also rely on muscles to push blood back to the heart. Activities such as walking, running, or swimming stimulates the muscles to circulate blood in the veins. When these muscles are at rest such as when you sit for a long time, or stand, circulation slows down in the veins. This results in pooling which increases pressure in the veins resulting in varicose veins.
Varicose veins are often hereditary; if someone in your family develops them then you are at a higher risk of developing them too. Hormonal factors also contribute to the development of varicose veins. These can include puberty, pregnancy, menopause, and the use of birth control pills.
Normally, varicose veins are nothing but a cosmetic problem. The veins increase in size, may twist, and turn bluish purple. Other than that, varicose veins for most people is hardly inconvenient. However, there are some who will experience slight to extreme pain in the affected areas. the legs will feel tired, and heavy. More than that, the veins are warm or hot to the touch depending on how severe the varicose veins. Moreover, the surrounding skin will be tight, and ashy.
If left untreated, these symptoms can do a lot of damage to the legs, and feet. The skin will be the most affected as it will start to thin. You may also develop eczema due to irritation in the affected areas. If these skin changes continue to progress, the skin will get even more damaged through the development of a skin ulcer. Bumping your varicose veins can cause bleeding which happens in excess due to pooling.
Compression socks do not cure varicose veins but they do manage the symptoms. Because of the firm compression they offer, these socks squeeze the walls of the veins which internally increases the pressure of blood flow. This reduces pooling in the veins which in turn lessens swelling, pain, and discoloration. patients with varicose veins often experience relief after wearing compression socks to manage varicose veins symptoms.
Finally, varicose veins are closely associated with Deep Vein Thrombosis. People who have varicose veins are at risk of developing deep vein thrombosis. Deep vein thrombosis or DVT is a condition where a blood clot develops in one or more of the deep veins that are found in the body.
Deep vein thrombosis can be caused by a number of factors. The first is an inherited or genetic disorder that increases the chances of developing a blood clot. Cancer and some treatments of cancer such as chemotherapy will also put you at risk of developing DVT. Limited blood flow can also cause DVT because the blood will slow down, increasing the chances of developing blood clots. Hormonal changes brought about by pregnancy can also increase your chance of developing DVT.
People above the age of 40 are at a higher risk of developing DVT as well as being overweight, using birth control pills and having a central venous catheter or pacemaker. Some surgeries cause damage to blood vessels which increases the chances of developing blood clots.
The primary symptom of deep vein thrombosis is swelling of the arm or the leg; it can happen gradually, or drastically. Pain is the next symptom which can also come as tenderness of the affected area especially when you stand or walk. When the affected area swells, it also becomes warm and sometimes hot to the touch.
The skin around the affected area also becomes discolored, often red or bluish if it is severe. The veins near the surface of the skin will also appear to be larger than normal such as in varicose veins. In some cases, you will develop symptoms of Pulmonary Embolism such as pain in the back, sharp pain in the chest that occurs when you walk or cough, bloody cough, faster heartbeat, and sudden shortness of breath.
Compression socks are a great form of therapy for deep vein thrombosis. For people who are at risk of developing DVT, the compression socks will prevent the risk of forming blood clots in the veins through improving circulation in the veins. Compression socks speed up the blood flow in the veins reducing the chances of developing blood clots.
Other than helping with these medical conditions, compression socks are also being used as running accessories. It is very common these days to see runners wearing bright and colorful knee-high socks while running. They are also popular at the gym, among hikers, and athletes.
These are compression socks and they are used by runners because they give extra comfort and help reduce lactate concentration in the legs. Also, after running a marathon or training, the compression socks help to circulate blood during relaxation. They reduce the amount of soreness and help runners recover faster.
Compression socks are used post-surgery. Doctors often recommend compression socks as a recovery tool after undergoing surgery. Some surgeries are minor and quick; recovery is often easy and can be done while going about your regular schedule. Other surgeries are major and call for recovery to be done in bed and off your feet.
Doctors recommend compression socks to people who will be off their feet for a long time after surgery in order to maintain healthy blood circulation. They reduce the risk of forming blood clots too.
Another group of people who use compression socks is frequent fliers. People who are always flying end up sitting or lying down for a long time. Going for long periods without stimulating your leg muscles with exercise can cause blood clots and weaken the health of your legs and feet overall.
People who fly a lot such as pilots and flight attendants should wear compression socks in order to stimulate their legs and maintain proper circulation, and good leg health overall.
The last use of compression socks is to provide overall comfort. Even if you do not fly a lot, run, or have a medical condition, you should still use compression socks if your legs feel tired or heavy at the end of the day. If you have been on your feet all day and your legs are tired, compression socks will help with recovery.
Styles of Compression Socks
The 21st century has seen many styles of compression socks so far. Manufacturers and physicians realized that the regular compression sock that reaches just at the knew and covers the whole foot is not ideal for everyone. People needed more or less coverage depending on their needs. This brought about different styles of compression socks that have become just as popular as the footed knee highs.
Knee-high socks are the most popular style of compression socks in the market. They reach just below the knee and often cover the leg and foot altogether. These are popular among runners, athletes, and nurses. They often come in colorful prints, and patterns making them even more attractive to wearers.
Low cut socks have become especially popular among people due to the ‘invisibility’ characteristic when worn with shoes. Low cut compression socks are just as popular for the same reason. They are often worn by people whose feet sell more than the legs and things.
Another style of compression socks is thigh-high compression socks. Thigh-high compression socks reach up to the mid-thigh where an elastic band holds it in place. These types of compression socks are often worn by people who have deep vein thrombosis or have noticed swelling and varicose veins on their thighs.
These are the three main styles of compression socks. They were further modified to provide users with comfort depending on their needs. The first modification made was the toeless compression socks. Toeless compression socks are either thigh-high, low-cut, or full-length hose that covers every part of the foot except the toes.
Another modification is the zippered compression socks. This modification is a regular type of compression sock that has been added a zipper at the side. The zipper is to facilitate easier wearing and taking off. Another similar modification is velcro at the side for the same purpose. These compression socks are often worn by seniors who may struggle to put on compression socks. They are also preferred by immobile patients.
The last modification is the footless compression sock. As the name suggests, footless compression socks are socks that cover the leg up to the knee but do not cover any part of the foot. They are often worn by athletes, and people whose swelling is more concentrated on the legs than the feet.
Why Go Footless?
If you are like most people and enjoy giving your toes or feet breathing space, then footless compression socks are the socks for you. During the summer, it can get very hot and you will end up with hot feet if you wear footed compression socks. While they are very absorbent and comfortable, you should consider a more breathable modification that is the footless compression sock.
Compression socks with a footless option give the wearer whole new freedom without sacrificing proper blood flow. Going footless allows you to wear sandals, flip flops, and peep toes for more formal occasions. These compression socks also allow you to go barefoot at the beach. Footless compression socks are also good for diabetes patients because it makes it easier to inspect for injuries, and bruises that they may not be aware of.
The biggest advantage of footless compression socks is that they encourage wearing during the summer rather than abandoning them for the seasons because it is too hot. With footles compression wear, you will not experience any cramping and crowding of the toes which can be bothersome to people with foot problems such as bunions, toenail issues or highly sensitive toes.
Buying Guide for Footless Compression Socks
Buying footless compression socks is just like buying regular compression socks. The first thing you need to take note of is the fabric. Today, compression socks are made of different fabrics including nylon, spandex, cotton, and many more. Your compression socks should feel comfortable to wear at all times. Therefore, ensure that your compression socks do not irritate your skin. You can choose more than one fabric if they work for you in order to give yourself a choice and prevent limitations.
The second thing you need to look at is the band around the ankle and the top of the socks. Footless compression socks do not cover the foot; they end just at the ankle. When buying this type of compression socks, ensure that the ankle has a band to ensure that compression is as it should be.
Whether your compression socks end at the knee or thigh, it is important to ensure that there is a band at the top to prevent them from slipping down. The band should be secure and firmly sitting on the skin without bunching up or letting loose.
When it comes to the compression level, it is best to leave it to the specialists. Before you diagnose yourself a compression level for your legs and feet, visit a physician to get examined. A specialist will help determine which level of compression is needed to treat your symptoms. Buying a compression level that is too high will do the opposite and instead cut off blood circulation. On the other hand, buying a pressure level that is too low will do nothing for your symptoms which puts you at more risk.
Color and pattern are entirely up to you. Many people are able to find their type of compression wear in terms of style, and color depending on what they need. Footless compression socks come in blacks and nudes which are great for wearing under your regular clothes for office days.
They also come in bright and colorful patterns. These compression socks are worn by athletes, nurses, teachers, dancers, and many more people. They embrace these colors to make them more appealing and attractive going against the notions that compression socks are boring.
Finally, when buying footles compression socks, ensure that you get a fitting done by a professional. Like other forms of compression socks, you will need to have a professional fit you to ensure that you get the right size of compression socks. Wearing a size that is too small, will work against circulation and instead prevent proper blood flow. Buying a size that is too big will do nothing for your blood circulation. If you are buying online, then you can do the measurements yourself before buying the socks.
Footless compression socks are like any other form of compression wear. That been said, a bigger portion of compression socks lies on how well you care for your socks. They need to be washed every day using mild soap, and cold water. Use your hands to wash them instead of throwing them in the washing machine. This will prevent the elastic from wearing out quickly.
When drying them, pat them down with a towel to remove excess water. Wringing will reduce the lifespan of the socks. It is always best to have more than one pair to allow you to switch them out when you wash and dry them. After 6 to 8 months, replace your compression socks to ensure the best leg health.