Last Updated April 5, 2021
How Long Exactly?
Doctors can prescribe compression socks to be put on in the morning and worn all day. If you take them off, elevate your legs for 30 minutes. This also helps reduce swelling and ensure the proper fit to prevent fluid build-up. Take them off before bed.
If you have edema, you should get it treated fast. Compression socks can help, but only if you wear them correctly.
Let’s talk about what edema is, why compression socks work, and how long you should wear them for.
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What is Edema?
Simply put, edema is another term for swelling, which occurs when excess fluid gets trapped in body tissues.
This fluid may be the result of injuries, such as when swelling is caused by blunt force trauma. In other cases, swelling can occur because of pregnancy, allergic reactions, lack of movement, or poor blood circulation.
More serious causes of edema include severe illnesses, such as liver or kidney disease, restricted blood flow to the limbs, complications related to diabetes, varicose veins, deep vein blood clots, and hypoalbuminemia (albumin deficiency.)
Edema can be unsightly and uncomfortable in mild cases. When it is more severe, however, it can restrict movement and be incredibly painful. This can create a snowball effect because, when you decrease your movement, your swelling can increase even more.
How Compression Socks Treat Edema
Besides using prescription drugs to treat symptoms and underlying causes of edema, doctors may also recommend the use of a compression socks.
Compression socks generate pressure to decrease fluid retention in the body, especially in legs and feet. Some come in graduated compression, which means they apply the greatest amount of pressure at the ankles and lesser pressure upwards.
By increasing the pressure on the legs, compression socks encourage more efficient circulation. This means that the blood does not pool in the ankles and feet but instead returns to the heart in a timely manner. In a similar way, compression socks prevent other fluids from staying in the lower leg area.
Compression socks also help relieve some of the pain caused by swelling almost immediately after you put them on. This means that you may be able to move around more easily, which can also help decrease swelling.
How Long do I Have to Use Compression Socks?
Compression socks can be worn for a short period to treat edema, however, it is advisable to consult with a doctor on whether or not to wear compression socks, what type would be most beneficial, and how long they should be worn for.
Essentially, compression socks can be worn daily with a doctor’s okay.
Some people find compression socks uncomfortable at first because it is a tighter sock than they are used to wearing. If this is the case for you, start by wearing the sock for shorter stretches such as an hour or two. Then, work your way up to wearing them the whole day.
For the best results, put on your compression socks first thing in the morning. After lying flat all night, your legs will be less swollen, so it will be easier to get the socks on.
It is also best to take off your compression gear every night before bed as wearing them during sleep can restrict the blood circulation in the legs.
Some side effects may occur if a pair of compression socks that are too tight or too small are worn, as well as if they are worn for too long (i.e. all day, non-stop). Remove the socks immediately if any of the following occurs:
- Joint pain.
- Tingling feet.
- Allergic reactions or irritation (usually caused by the material).
Compression Levels Available
Compression socks typically have four standard levels of compression, which are measured in ‘millimeters of mercury (mmHg)’. Choose your socks according to your needs, as the higher the compression level, the stronger the pressure applied.
- 15-20 mmHg (Over-the-Counter): Low-pressure socks suitable for mild edema and aching legs or feet.
- 20-30 mmHg (Medical Grade Class 1): Can treat varicose veins and sports injuries; commonly used by seniors and pregnant women.
- 30-40 mmHg (Medical Grade Class 2): Designed to treat moderate to severe edema, deep vein thrombosis (DVT) and lymphedema. This compression level is only available with a prescription.
- 40-50 mmHg (Medical Grade Class 3): The strongest compression level available and should not be worn without consulting a medical professional; these are for very severe cases of lymphedema, venous stasis, or serious wounds.
As the wrong pressure level can do more harm than good, it is always best to check with your doctor before choosing your compression level, even if you think you only need one that is available over-the-counter.
Compression Sock Styles
Like regular socks, compression socks are available in a wide variety of shapes and sizes.
- Ankle Socks: The smallest compression socks go over the feet only. These are good for people with mild foot aches but no other leg ailments.
- Knee-High Socks: This is the most popular type of compression sock. It addresses the most common leg diseases but is also suitable for mild discomfort and athletics.
- Leg Sleeves: Leg sleeves are similar to a knee-high or thigh-high sock, but they do not cover the foot. They are especially popular with athletes or people in warm climates.
- Thigh-High Socks: These go over the knee and extend to the upper thigh. They are appropriate for people with severe varicose veins and edema whose problems extend above the knee.
- Pantyhose: Pantyhose style compression gear covers the foot, calf, thigh, and hip. These are prescribed for the most serious cases of vein disease and for bedridden patients.
How do I Find the Right Compression Socks?
It is best to measure your legs and feet in the morning when they are the least swollen. If you need compression socks for medical reasons, ask a medical professional to measure you for proper sizing.
The right compression socks for you can be different to someone else. In other words, a one-type-fits-all does not apply so much for compression socks; this is because of various factors, such as sizing, type, and compression level, which vary from one person to another.
In fact, getting a one-size-fits-all product can harm you instead of helping you. This is because the pressure is designed to be applied to specific parts of your body. If, for example, you get a sock that is too small, it could cut off circulation.
Before buying a compression sock, make sure to get the measurement of the length from your heel to your knee and the circumference around your calf. If your swelling goes above the knee, record the circumference of the widest part of your thigh as well.
It is important to conduct proper research, including understanding the various types of compression socks available and reading customer reviews, to ensure you buy a good-quality pair fit for your needs.
Remember that you will need at least two pairs of compression socks so that you have one to wear while you wash the first.
How to Wear Compression Socks
The best socks for swollen feet are the socks that you actually wear. Here’s how to put them on:
- Sit in a straight-backed chair for support.
- Ensure your legs and feet are clean and dry. Dry skin allows the socks to pass smoothly over your legs. Do not put on lotion beforehand.
- Roll up the stockings and gently place your toes in it. Continue to pull the sock on until it completely covers your foot and toes, but keep it rolled as much as possible.
- Carefully roll the sock back up, making sure you don’t pull too hard. Excessive tugging can cause the fabric to run or tear.
- Smooth out any wrinkles and bunches along the seam to ensure that the seam is straight.
- Repeat for the other leg.
If you have limited mobility or extreme swelling that makes putting on the compression socks difficult, consider investing in a donning tool. This is a simple device that helps extend your reach and put on your compression socks correctly.
- Replace a pair of compression socks every few months. Do not wear any socks with holes, frays, etc.
- If you are going to be using socks on both legs, buy at least two pairs of socks at a time. As one pair is being washed, there will be another pair you can wear.
- Hand-wash compression socks with cool or lukewarm water for best results. You could also put them in a mesh laundry bag and use the gentle cycle of a washing machine with cool water and with mild detergent, but they will not last as long this way. In either case, air-dry them afterwards.
Compression socks can help you maintain or improve your leg health, especially if you suffer from edema or other circulatory issues.
They will be most helpful if you select a good-quality pair and wear them properly. However, always consult with a medical professional before buying.
Interested in investing in a pair of compression socks?
Check out ComproGear Compression Socks. They’re designed with Medical-Grade 20-30 mmHg Compression in Knee High Length to stop Edema (swelling) fast! Most customers find they stop painful swollen feet and calves instantly. Plus they’re made with moisture wicking fabric to keep going all day long.
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