With the ever-increasing risk of cardiovascular diseases in the world today, most of the therapeutic inventions have been designed for prevention rather than treatment. One particular invention, the compression socks, has gone mainstream and is changing lives and the outcome of cardiovascular disease.
However, these inventions are not without their shortcomings. One major shortcoming is that people with large legs usually find it quite a challenge when choosing compression socks that fit well and work optimally.
In this article, we will explore the various aspects of compressions socks and guide you on how to choose the appropriate pair for you.
What Are Large Calf Compression Stockings?
Compression socks, also called compression stockings, are specialized hosiery that is designed to protect against and prevent disorders of the veins – particularly deep venous thrombosis, phlebitis, and edema.
These elastic garments help prevent the distention of veins and also accelerate blood flow through the venous system. As a result, they are one of the best therapeutic strategies geared towards preventing clot formation and other cardiovascular problems.
Large calf compression socks are designed majorly for two categories of people – those with large or thick legs, and those with cone-shaped legs. These individuals usually have trouble rolling or sliding the average compression socks, hence the need for custom large calf compression socks.
How Calf Compression Socks Work
Most people nowadays live sedentary lifestyles which predisposes them to cardiovascular disorders. What causes these problems is prolonged immobility – either sitting too long at the office desk or taking long flights without getting to stretch your legs.
These problems occur in the veins because unlike arteries, veins are low-pressure vessels and are prone to stasis of blood which predisposes you to clot formation. When you move around or exercise, the contraction and relaxation of your muscles help push blood to the veins and prevent stasis hence no clot formation.
Compression socks work in a similar manner as muscles during an activity. They apply pressure to the muscles of the leg and ankle and help achieve any of the following effects:
- Aid in venous return to facilitate blood flow back to the heart
- Prevents reflux and/or stasis of blood within the veins of the leg thereby inhibiting clot formation
- Increases the velocity and volume of blood flow by compressing and reducing the diameter of blood vessels
- Massages your muscles and improves their tone
Through these mechanisms, calf compression socks help improve blood flow and maintain the health of deep veins in the leg.
Medical Uses of Compression Socks
Here is a list of medical conditions for which compression socks are recommended:
- Lower Limb Edema
Lower limb edema refers to the swelling of legs due to accumulation of fluid outside the blood vessels. This condition usually occurs when either of the three major organs in the body (heart, liver kidney) is unhealthy.
- Varicose Veins
Varicose veins are distended and inflamed veins that are very painful. They usually predispose the affected individual to clot formation within the legs and can lead to other serious health complications.
- Venous Insufficiency
Venous insufficiency refers to a condition where the veins cannot channel blood back to the heart for oxygenation. This condition is usually chronic but symptoms can be managed by compression socks.
Pregnancy is a hypercoagulable state. What this means is that pregnant women are more predisposed to clot formation hence the reason why mild exercise during pregnancy is recommended. Compression socks can also be very helpful.
- Deep Vein Thrombosis
Deep vein thrombosis, abbreviated as DVT, is the commonest disorder of the veins. It is associated with high mortality, especially because it is asymptomatic most of the time. Compression socks are helpful in preventing asymptomatic DVT in immobile individuals such as when traveling by air.
Who Should Not Use Compression Socks
Not everyone is legible for using compression socks. Some of the conditions for which compression socks are contraindicated include:
- Dermatitis (inflammation of the skin) that is oozing or discharging any fluid.
- Advanced peripheral neuropathy such as in poorly managed diabetes mellitus.
- Infection and inflammation of the veins (septic phlebitis.)
- Peripheral obstruction of arteries
Choosing the Best Compression Socks
It is important to know the reason why you need compression socks. Being fully aware of why you need it would inform your decision and help you choose what works. There are two major categories of compression socks: gradient socks and anti-embolism socks.
- Graduated socks
These socks increase the flow of blood in the veins that are located within the calf muscles. The main characteristic of these compression socks is that they are tighter at the ankle and gradually loosen towards the knee.
The socks are designed for individuals who can walk but are at risk of developing venous clots or other symptoms of poor blood circulation especially when they sit down for long. These socks usually need professional fitting.
It has become common practice for suppliers of this type of compression socks to provide features of personal preference such as color and a choice to decide between open and closed-toe designs.
- Anti-embolism socks
Anti-embolism socks are designed specifically for patients who cannot walk or those who are recovering after surgery. Unlike gradient socks, they are not preferred for patients who can walk. Anti-embolism socks are the best for bedridden patients or individuals who can’t walk and are supported by wheelchairs.
Besides knowing the reason why you need compression socks, you should also consider the size of your thighs and legs – especially if you are looking to get large calf compression socks.
Compression socks for large or thick legs
Nowadays, most brand manufacturers make compression socks styles for people with large and wide legs. Just like every other compression socks, large calf compression socks are also comfortable and fashionable.
Compression socks for large or thick legs are available for both men and women and come in sizes that can accommodate a 17-inch ankle and 26-inch calf.
Compression socks for cone-shaped legs
The usual assumption is that the average person has a cone-shaped leg since the ankle is always thinner than the knee. However, this is not the usual orientation of the leg. In most cases, the diameter of the calf is always wider than the diameter of the knee. People with cone-shaped legs have calf and knee diameters about the same measurement.
People with this type of leg have trouble sliding and rolling their compression socks. Conveniently, manufacturers have designed silicone (and other adhesive materials) based compression socks that create a firmer hold against the skin.
Calf Compression Socks Sizing Guide
For people fit for large calf compression socks, the major challenge is finding the right size that works seamlessly for their condition. Therefore, we have simplified the pros and cons of the options available and how you can select the right size for your calf. Read on:
Knee-High vs Thigh-High compression socks
Both the graduated and anti-embolism large calf compression socks come in knee-high and thigh-high designs. But which of the two is better? Studies and reviews that have been done to evaluate the effectiveness of knee-high and thigh-high compression socks have had varied outcomes.
One particular study found out that there is a 6% percent chance of developing DVT when using knee-high compression socks and a 4% chance of developing DVT when using thigh-high compression socks.
The conclusion was that the length of compression socks significantly increases its benefits in preventing the risk of deep venous thrombosis and other disorders of the venous system both in medical patients and those who have undergone surgery.
Despite this difference in effectiveness, knee-high compression socks are still the recommended first-line choice because:
- They are easier to apply than thigh-high compression socks
- They are easy to size
- They are more comfortable
These benefits of knee-high compression socks increase patient’s compliance with treatment. Another study that was done in Italy and involved patients who were treated for post-thrombotic syndrome evaluated the differences in outcome for both knee-high and thigh-high compression socks.
From the study, it was observed that itchiness and redness were associated with both compression socks. However, the symptoms were more common in 41% of patients using thigh-high compression socks compared to 27% of patients using knee-high socks.
Certainly, both knee-high and thigh-high compression socks have their pros and cons. The decision of what you should buy mainly depends on your preference.
Knee-High Sizing Guide for Women
|Size||Ankle Circumference||Calf Circumference|
|Small||6.5 – 8 in||10.5 – 14.5 in|
|Medium||8 – 9.6 in||11.4 15.5 in|
|Large||9.6 – 11 in||12.6 – 17 in|
|X-Large||11 – 12.6 in||13.6 -17.5 in|
|XX-Large||12.6 – 14.2 in||14.5 – 18.5 in|
|XXX-Large||>14.2 in||16 – 20 in|
Knee High Sizing Guide for Men
|Size||Ankle Circumference||Calf Circumference|
|Small||7.8 – 8.5 in||11 – 15 in|
|Medium||8.5 – 9.5 in||13 – 17.1 in|
|Large||9 – 10.4 in||14 – 18.1 in|
|X-Large||10.5 – 12.6 in||15.1 – 20.2 in|
|XX-Large||12.7 – 14. 8 in||16.7 – 22.8 in|
Thigh High Sizing Guide for Both Men and Women
|Size||Ankle Measurement||Calf Measurement||Mid-thigh Measurement||Top-thigh Measurement||Thigh Length|
|Small||7.4 – 8.2 in||11.4 – 13.3 in||14.9 – 17.7 in||18.5 – 21.6 in||26.7 – 27.9 in|
|Medium||8.2 – 9.0 in||12.9 – 14.5 in||17.3 – 19.3 in||21.2 – 24.4 in||27.9 – 28.3 in|
|Large||14.9 – 17.7 in||17.3 – 19.3 in||18.8 – 20.8 in||20.4 – 22.4 in||22 – 24 in|
|XL||18.5 – 21.6 in||21.2 – 24.4 in||24.0 – 25.9 in||25.5 – 27.5 in||27.1 – 29.5 in|
|XXL||26.7 – 27.9 in||27.9 – 28.3 in||28.3 – 28.7 in||28.7 – 29.5 in||29.5 – 30.7 in|
Understanding levels of compression for large calf compression stockings
Besides the size and type of large calf compression stockings, another confusing aspect when choosing the right compression socks is knowing the level of compression and what they mean. Usually, there is a range of compression allocated for each category of compression stockings.
The common classification categorizes compression socks into 4 groups based on the amount of compression they deliver.
- Over the counter compression socks have a standard compression level of 15 to 20 mmHg
- Medical class 1 category of compression socks have compression levels of 20 to 30 mmHg
- Medical class 2 category of compression socks have levels of 30 to 40 mmHg
- Medical class 3 category of compression socks have compression levels of 40 to 50 mmHg
What do compression levels mean?
These compression levels are indicated in a range of numbers. For instance, over the counter compression socks have compression levels of 15 to 20 mmHg. What this means is that the amount of compression you can achieve from this type of compression stocking should not go below 15 mmHg and should not exceed 20 mmHg.
The abbreviation “mmHg” is a unit of measurement for the pressure which stands for “millimeters of mercury.” This is the same unit of measurement that is used to give reading about your blood pressure.
Reputable companies like Mediven, Juzo, Sigvaris, and even CEP have their compression stockings graduated in such a way that the compression is greater at the ankles and gradually reduces upwards. This ensures that the direction of blood flow is towards the heart and not the other way around.
As you may have already guessed, it is possible that some companies may manufacture compression socks that are not well graduated and may therefore worsen blood flow in your legs. As a result, be sure to make purchases from reputable brands.
15 – 20 mmHg compression socks
These are also called over the counter compression stockings. They provide a relatively lower level of compression and are used to alleviate mild swelling and muscle fatigue after traveling, sitting for long or when standing for a long duration.
These are the types of compression socks preferred by people who travel a lot by air. Apart from being comfortable to put on, most people find them convenient because they come in various styles and can blend well with lifestyle outfits.
20 – 30 mmHg compression socks medical grade 1
This type of compression socks is the most common medical-grade compression socks available. It is widely used and preferred by medical practitioners because it provides competent results without putting too much pressure on the legs.
The amount of compression provided by this category of socks is sufficient for the treatment of varicose veins, mild leg swelling, and prophylactic therapy against clot formation in post-surgery patients and travelers.
It is also important to note that pregnant women can achieve impressive benefits from this type of compression socks.
Medical grade 2, 30 -40 mmHg compression socks
These are slightly stronger compression socks used in the medical line. This type of compression socks is recommended for patients whose leg and/or venous symptoms range from moderate to severe.
This is the type of compression socks that your doctor would recommend for you if you have deep vein thrombosis, lymphedema and any other condition that would expose you to clot formation.
Grade 3, 40 – 50 mmHg medical compression socks
This is by far the strongest compression socks available and is usually indicated when treating severe conditions of the vein. This type of compression socks requires the recommendation of a professional and qualified healthcare provider.
This high level of compression is not recommended for self-directed therapy. You should contact your doctor first and find out exactly what they want you to get.
Large Calf Compression Stockings Prices
Most of the best budget large calf compression socks come in price ranges between $13 and $40. The wide range in prices is due to the difference in brands and vendors who sell these garments. Occasionally, you may find large calf compression socks that are exorbitantly priced. But the amount you pay is usually less compared to the health benefits you obtain from these compression socks.
Where to Buy Calf Compression Socks
Most of the time, you would get compression socks at the hospital if your doctor recommends that you need them as part of your therapy for any venous disease diagnosed. But this is common only with medical-grade compression socks – particularly those with 20 – 30 mmHg compression pressure.
But if you have evaluated and found out that you are at risk of a venous disease, you may want to purchase compression socks as prophylaxis for a condition such as deep venous thrombosis. In such a circumstance, you may go the way of online vendors or large stores.
Online shops have grown in popularity over the past decade and would soon be the go-to shopping option. Check out our shop (insert a link to your shop) and get the variety that suits you.
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