You’re sitting in front of your flickering computer screen, fantasizing about your next vacation. However, you’re worried about flying because the last time your legs blew up like a balloon. Did you know that compression socks can help? They decrease the risk of blood clots in your legs while traveling by improving blood flow and lessening swelling.
Wrong daydream? How about you’re looking forward to your next athletic victory and could really use some help recovering from your last workout. Many people wear compression socks for better performance, faster recoveries, and more comfort following intense sports training.
Compression stockings prevent serious medical risks for many people. Socks come in various strengths and sizes so you can choose the one that is best for you. Before jumping into how to buy compression socks, you should know what these socks are and why you need them.
What are Compression Stockings?
Compression stockings are stretchy, snug-fitting socks. The stocking gets looser as they move up your leg but fit tightly around the ankle. Some have toes, and some are like giant tubes.
Who Uses It?
Those who generally use these stockings include people:
- At risk of circulation problems
- With diabetes, varicose veins, or deep vein thrombosis
- Who just had surgery
- Who sit or stand for a long time at work
- Who spend extended time in airplanes (such as pilots)
- With limited or no mobility
- Who play sports, run or are professional athletes
However, some medical conditions should avoid wearing compression stockings. These include peripheral vascular disease, open wounds, and severe diabetic neuropathy. It is important to discuss if you’re the right candidate for compression stockings with your healthcare provider.
How do Compression Socks Work?
Compression socks apply pressure to the blood vessels in your legs. The arteries move the oxygen-rich blood to your muscles to help relax them before returning to the heart for more oxygen. Compression socks can help your legs get rid of aches, swelling, and fatigue. Further, they prevent the feeling of dizziness upon standing up and minimize discomfort during heavy workouts.
These socks move your blood, so it does not pool in your veins and produce blood clots. When a blood clot is circulating in your body, it can get stuck in dangerous places like your lungs.
Some athletes like basketball players, runners, and tri-athletes wear the compression sleeves and socks on their arms and legs. Wearing these ensures better blood flow, providing oxygen to their muscles and also preventing the tissue damage. Moreover, lymph circulation and oxygen-rich blood help muscles to recover quickly.
When to Wear Compression Socks?
As already mentioned, these socks help improve circulation and promote blood flow in the legs, which further prevents swelling and blood clots. Keep reading for a brief outline of few other scenarios where you may consider wearing compression socks.
Compression Socks Wearing Scenarios:
Prolonged Periods of Sitting: Some people refer to the calf muscle like a second heart. During movement, pressurized veins in the lower leg act as a steady pump and allow blood to flow back to the heart. If you’re sitting all day, your muscles work less and cause blood to pool in the lower part of the legs.
Stand For a Longer Period: By using the calf as a muscle pump, walking supports better blood flow. However, standing in the same position for a long time reduces the effectiveness of the system. Trade workers, hospitality staff, and retail employees should consider compression socks. After wearing them, legs feel less fatigued and provide more energy for the day’s work.
During Exercise: Compression can help promote post-exercise recovery. If you wear compression socks during and after exercise, you will experience less muscle soreness in the legs.
Traveling: Traveling to far distances can also cause blood to pool in your legs. While flying on an airplane, prolonged sitting increases the risk of blood clots and develop deep vein thrombosis. With compression therapy, socks help you safely reach your destination.
Trendy Socks: From casual to fashionable themes, medical and off-the-shelf socks are available in a variety of styles and materials. Thus, compression socks can be professional or fun, depending on the setting. You can prepare for work or enjoy the athleisure aesthetic.
Before Buying Compression Socks
Before buying, there are some things you should consider to get maximum benefits from the compression socks.
Size and Strength
These are the two important factors you should consider before selecting compression socks. The first is the compression level because the amount of pressure varies depending on why you are wearing them. Available options for compression ranges from mild to extra firm compression.
The second is the size to ensure that you get the best fit with your next compression socks. Before swelling occurs, measure the circumference of the calf and ankle, as well as the length of the calf. Use the sizing guide for a proper fit.
When looking for the price, it is best to consider quality. Choose compression stockings with excellent workmanship and material, then look at the cost.
Kinds of Compression Socks
Compression socks are available in a variety of lengths to cover different parts of the body. Most of the stockings available are just below the knee length for DVT, but you can also buy thigh-high and tights.
Compression stockings are also available in different levels of pressure and should feel snug. Before moving forward, know that mmHg stands for millimeters of mercury in medical terms and is a unit of pressure for measurement. Lower numbers of mmHg indicate mild compression, which can keep you comfortable while on your feet at work. However, to prevent DVT, you need higher mmHg, along with a firmer fit.
How to buy the right compression socks
With so many different types of socks available, it’s difficult to select one. The following steps can help you choose the correct compression.
Step 1: Choose Compression
For Sports Recovery and Daily Wear: 15-20 mmHg
This is the lowest amount of pressure available for compression garments and can fit into any lifestyle. These socks are great for sports, travel, and daily wear. These are available in a variety of materials that are easy to wear and help improve circulation.
Medical and Sports Recovery For Mild Symptoms: 20-30 mmHg
People usually wear 20-30 mmHg strength for a bit more support. This type of compression socks is ideal for spider veins, mild ankle swelling, varicose veins, and following surgery.
Medical or Daily Wear for Moderate to Severe Symptoms: 30-40 mmHg
This compression strength prevents blood clots, severe varicose veins, lymphedema, severe swelling, and high-risk post-operative conditions.
Step 2: Choose Between Socks and Stockings
High Knee: Below the Knee
High knee compression socks go past the curvature of your calf and stop below the bend of your knee. Some compression stockings and socks can pull up over your knee because they are stretchy. However, pulling them too high over your knee may cause them to slide down or roll. It could be uncomfortable for you and sometimes dangerous, depending on the type of compression you are wearing and your condition. Buy knee-high socks if you are only facing swelling in your ankles.
High Thigh: Used at the Top of the Thigh
High thigh compression stockings stop at the top of your thigh and cover the entire leg. They cover your entire thigh up to the fold of the buttock and help improve circulation throughout the entire leg.
Waist-high Pantyhose or Maternity Pantyhose
You pull waist-high compression stockings up to your hips. These bring swelling up and out of your legs. Expecting women wear plus-size or maternity pantyhose that pull over the stomach. Consider waist-high, thigh-high, or pantyhose compression stockings if you have swelling on the knee or above.
Step 3: Find Your Style
Whether you’re a fashionista, a high-powered athlete, or a professional surgeon, there is a compression stocking to meet your goals.
Opaque Legging Material: Men’s Dress Socks
Comfortable for men, this middle of the road fabric is one of the most common compression socks. It is strong enough to provide compression to your legs while being easy to wear with professional clothing. Opaque fabrics are more durable than sheer stockings and ideal for varicose veins, swelling, and after surgery conditions.
Sheer Fabric For Women
Sheer materials are transparent, lightweight, fashionable, and are available in all brands. Sheer compression socks make the compression easy to pair with daily life. However, the fabric is not strong enough to prevent most types of swelling and is less durable against runs and snags.
High-tech Blend, Wool or Cotton Sports Material
Wear compression socks for running, moisture-wicking, and temperature control. Athletic compression stockings are made with durable material to tolerate more wear and tear. Casual or sports compression socks can be worn daily for swelling, varicose veins, and post-operatively. However, these socks are available in low compression levels like 15-20mmHg and 20-30 mmHg only.
What are the next steps for how to buy compression socks?
Compression socks improve the flow of blood to reduce the swelling in the legs. However, with a variety of sock types, sizes, and compression levels available, it is difficult to choose the best one. This guide for how to buy compression socks laid out some of our best tips, but first discuss with your medical provider to select the best one.