I. What are compression socks?
We all know the feeling of coming home after a long day– worn out with each step leaving you thinking you have heavy weights tied to your ankles. For some, swollen and achy legs might be an everyday occurrence that won’t seem to go away. If this sounds like you, then compression socks might right for you!
This raises the question… what are compression socks? Well, also known as compression stockings, compression socks are made of a breathable material that gently applies pressure to the legs. The socks typically start at the ankle and stop just below the knee. Compression socks are typically tighter around the ankle area and gradually loosen up to the knee. They are made of stretchy yet firm fabric that is designed to alleviate leg pain and other symptoms of various illness.
The strategic design of compression socks works to reduce symptoms by applying pressure to the legs to improve circulation throughout the day. By compressing the veins that carry blood back to the heart, your body is encouraged to pump blood at a higher velocity and ultimately promote oxygenation of the blood. This physiological response is what makes compression socks so effective for blood circulation throughout the body.
II. Why are they important?
Now that we’ve discussed how compression socks work, let’s take a look at why they are important. People may wear compression socks for the following reasons:
- Preventing blood clots. By encouraging proper circulation throughout the body, compression socks lower the risk of stagnant blood clotting in the legs. Blood clots can further exacerbate leg pain and in some cases cause serious medical complications.
- Reducing leg pain. As we will discuss later, people who are work in certain professions or have preexisting conditions may be more likely to experience chronic leg pain and swelling. Compression socks work to alleviate some of the symptoms associated with leg pain and swelling.
Because of their many health benefits and low risk, healthcare providers may recommend compression socks as a means to lessen leg discomfort due to swelling or clotting.
III. Who wears compression socks?
Compression socks may be useful in non-invasively treating the following conditions:
- Chronic Venous Insufficiency (CVI)
- Post-Thrombotic Syndrome (PTS)
- Varicose Veins
- Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT)
- Other arterial disorders that affect blood circulation
In addition to treating for these conditions, compression socks can also act as preventative measures for other conditions, including:
- Those at high risk of Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT)
- Pregnant women with excessive leg swelling
- Those who have recently had surgery or who are actively on bed rest
Because of their medical significance, doctors may be more likely to recommend compression socks to the following people:
- People who plan to travel on airplanes, cars, or trains. Inactivity in tight spaces for long periods of time has been shown to increase the chance of developing blood clots. In contrast, studies have also found that wearing compression socks have been shown to decrease swelling and blood clot formation.
- People whose work require long periods of time standing or sitting in confined spaces. This includes nurses, pilots/flight attendants, truck drivers, and those that have desk jobs.
- Those with achy, swollen, or restless legs.
While compression socks are most beneficial to those with the conditions discussed above, they are generally appropriate for use in children and otherwise healthy adults. It is always important to consult with your healthcare provider if in doubt about medical safety.
IV. Types of compression socks
Compression socks come in many different styles and designs. While some are designed for professional use, others are colorful to match different personalities. Depending on your need, you may choose to purchase on of thee kinds of compression socks:
- Anti-embolism stockings
- Graduated support socks
- Non-medical compression socks
Anti-embolism stockings work similarly to its other counterparts but is especially designed to prevent embolisms. They vary in the level of compression gradients applied to the legs. These stockings are meant for individuals with zero or limited mobility. If you are inactive or are at elevated risk of developing an embolism, talk to your doctor about anti-embolism stockings.
Graduated compression socks are the most common type of compression sock. Like almost all compression socks, graduates support socks work by applying increased pressure at the ankle and gradually reducing pressure up the leg. These socks usually extend to specific lengths that are determined by your healthcare provider. By changing the pressure gradient, graduated compression socks work to increase blood flow and decrease risk of developing ailments like edemas, leg swelling and leg pain. Graduated compression socks are prescribed by physicians and are calibrated to specific lengths and/or pressures appropriate for each patient. Talk to your healthcare provider to see in graduated compression socks are right for you.
Non-medical socks are similar to graduated support socks but do not require a medical prescription. These compression garments to not typically have a pressure gradient staring at the ankles but instead apply uniform pressure across the legs. They may be sold as traditional socks or as tube-shaped garments that cover the whole leg. These socks are meant to alleviate non-serious symptoms such as swelling, pain and aches in the legs after long period of inactivity. If you have any concerns about using non-medical compression socks, talk to your doctor to make sure there are no risks before beginning use.
- Another type of non-medical garment is a knee brace. These
- “we sell them”
V. How to use compression socks
- Explanation of mmHG and mechanism of how they work
- Demonstration of how to put them on and proper use
- Medical disclaimer (?) – recommended use