Orthopedic socks are a great way to attain or maintain healthy feet and legs. Certain types of orthopedic socks, like compression socks and diabetic socks, are specially designed to support and provide compression therapy.
Orthopedic socks come in a variety of types, sizes, and lengths from ankle-high athletic socks to high-compression stockings. They each have unique benefits to wearing them.
Compression socks, specifically, are made to provide gentle pressure to ankles and legs. They promote better blood flow through the veins on a person’s lower legs and foot regions up to the heart.
Compression socks can also help reduce swelling in the ankle and lower leg areas and prevent the accompanying pain and discomfort associated with that swelling.
The Uses of Orthopedic Compression Socks
There are many different orthopedic uses for compression socks. Here are a few:
A lot of athletes wear compression socks to perform better in various sports such as soccer, track and football, among many others. In 2018, a study regarding orthopedic sock use in soccer players reported that some of the athletes showed improved performance results after wearing these socks.
Compression socks are also worn after a sporting event or even an intense workout. They have been known to help with a faster recovery time.
In today’s day in age, it feels like there are two type of jobs. One where you stand/move around all day and one where you sit at a desk all day. Each have their ups and downs. But when it comes to your legs, both types of work are at a disadvantage.
Standing/Moving All Day: Professions like teachers or nurses barely ever have a chance to sit. And because of the constant standing posture, blood can quickly accumulate in their lower extremities, causing swelling, pain and other discomforts. If left ignored, the condition could get worse and injuries could happen. Luckily, compression socks help push the flow of blood up through your legs and to get it pumping back into your heart.
Sitting All Day: Desk workers or even professions such as airline pilots tend to sit way more than they stand, and understandably so. However, when you sit for long periods of time, you can easily develop a condition called Deep Vein Thrombosis (or DVT). DVT is when a blood clot forms in a vein deep inside your body, usually in your legs. It’s a very painful condition and if the blood clot were to break loose, it could be deadly. Wearing compression socks can not only help reduce the pain and swelling once DVT occurs, but it can help prevent DVT from happening at all.
Like sitting at a desk at work all day, when you travel, you are also in a seated position for long periods of time. So, you too have to worry about conditions like Deep Vein Thrombosis.
Only now, if you are traveling by air, you have the added bonus of feeling the effects from the changes in the barometric pressure in the airplane’s cabin.
Ever wonder why you feel bloated and swollen when you get off an airplane? That’s because the “cabin altitude” most airplanes in the air is equivalent to the same air pressure of an altitude of around 7,000 feet above sea level. That’s almost 1,500 feet higher than Denver.
Compression socks can help reduce that swelling and bloating feeling as well as drinking a lot of water.
A whole slew of changes are happening in a woman’s body when she becomes pregnant and a lot of these changes might feel like they’re coming out of nowhere. Like swollen feet and varicose veins that you never had before.
Compression stockings (aka “compression socks”) can help with that. They are frequently worn by pregnant women. And it’s safe to do so. Sometimes even doctor recommended.
Wearing compression stockings can help reduce swelling, protect you from those nasty varicose veins, and even lower your risk for Deep Vein Thrombosis, which pregnant woman are at a higher risk of developing .
Diabetes is a condition that involves body-wide susceptibility. It can disrupt circulation, causing horrible damage to blood vessels. Blood vessels that feed limbs, the heart, kidneys, the brain and even eyes. Over time, worst-case scenarios can include foot and leg amputation, kidney failure, heart disease and blindness.
Orthopedic doctors often prescribe compression socks for diabetics who suffer from circulatory problems. Compression socks can help reduce leg/foot/ankle swelling and decrease pain often reported by diabetics.
Other Orthopedic Patient Uses
- Plantar fasciitis sufferers often find compression socks comfortable to wear.
- Surgeons often prescribe the medical type of compression socks to be worn by patients who undergo various surgeries that impact the legs, feet or circulatory system.
How Do Compression Stockings Work?
We’ve already discussed that compression socks improve the wearer’s blood flow by pushing blood from their lower extremities – legs/ankles/feet – back up towards the heart. Why is that important? Well, the heart re-oxygenates those blood cells. Then those newly oxygenated cells flow outwards, giving oxygen and life throughout the body.
We’ve also discussed that some people with various circulation related health conditions who experience frequent leg and/or ankle pain wear these socks for pain relief and swelling reduction. But how do compression socks actually work?
Foot Health 101: How Compression Socks Work
Compression socks work by applying steady pressure to engorged and sluggish veins within the lower legs, ankle area and feet.
As more blood is pushed upwards by the compression sock, the vein’s diameter can often shrink, bringing pain relief and other circulatory discomforts.
Since the pressure of a compression sock is consistent, they can help prevent any backflow of blood as it attempts to reach the heart. This backwards blood flow surge often occurs in patients with heart pumping issues and/or a variety of blood circulatory conditions.
The steady compression of these special socks can lessen any blood backflow that could travel laterally into the superficial veins of the feet (aka varicose veins).
These socks are often made from various elastics, like rubber, that are stretchy and provide the compression action desired.
Why Are Orthopedic Doctors Recommending Them?
Your orthopedic doctor may prescribe compression socks. But they don’t have to be prescribed. There are so many benefits to wearing them that healthy individuals have also joined the bandwagon.
Benefits of Wearing Compression Socks
- Prevents Blood Pooling in the Legs
- Boosts Leg Circulation
- Lessens or Prevents Leg Swelling
- Provides Support to Calves and Ankles
- Might Aid in Better Sport Performance
- Provides Needed Support to Tender Veins
- May Help Prevent Venous Ulcerations
- Helps to Correct Venous Related Hypertension
- Can Minimize Pain from Varicose Veins
- Helps Prevent DVT & Other Harmful Blood Clotting Conditions
- Can Lesson Dizziness & Other Risk Factors from Orthostatic Hypotension Symptoms
- May Indirectly Improve Lymphatic Drainage
For Orthopedic Use: The Main Types of Compression Socks
In general, there are two main types of compression socks available.
- Graduated Compression Stockings or Socks
- Anti-Embolism Stockings (often called TED hose)
Graduated Compression Stocking
In Graduated Compression Stockings, the compression level is “graduated.” Basically, the compression level is designed to be the greatest at the ankle region and as the sock or stocking moves up the leg, the compression gradually decreases.
There are multiple types of Graduated Compression Stockings, coming in all shapes, sizes, lengths, colors, and material choices. There are leg sleeves, toeless socks, knee-length socks, thigh-high socks, or even full-waist hosiery.
Graduated Compression Socks also come in different levels of compression, usually measured in millimeters of mercury (or mmHG).
All styles are available to men and women alike.
Prescription Not Required:
You do not need a prescription for graduated compression socks. You can find them at many online or offline retail stores. However, sometimes these compression socks can require a special fitting to ensure the proper medical compression strength. It is best to research the available options making special note of their proposed usage recommendations.
First-time compression sock users are urged to take the time to properly put them on and evaluate each one for effect and comfort. And remember it’s important to wear proper fitting shoes as well.
Anti-Embolism Compression Socks
Higher grade compression stockings are also available, but they usually need to be prescribed by a doctor. These are called Anti-Embolism Compression Socks. Often you’ll seem them be referred to as TED hose, or Thrombo-Embolic Deterrent hose.
These stockings are usually used to prevent the risks of a serious circulatory problems like Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT) and other blood clotting conditions.
What Causes DVT?
DVT occurs when something prevents your blood from circulating normally. Injuries, surgerys, certain types of medications and even sitting for long period of time can cause this.
Certain Risk Factors Include:
- Being Overweight or Obese
- Birth Control Pills
- Genetics or Family History
- Heart Failure
- Prolonged Bed Rest or Sitting
Cautions When Wearing Compression Hosiery
Even though compression socks can provide many health and comfort benefits, there are some cautions to take when wearing these supportive garments.
Proper Fit is Critical
First and foremost, any style of orthopedic sock or compression hosiery needs to fit properly for maximum health and comfort benefits and to avoid fit related adverse issues.
Prescribed compression stockings especially need to be properly measured and fitted by a medical professional trained in the use of these stockings.
As for non-medical compression hosiery, follow the size and usage directions found on the package label or insert.
Anyone using orthopedic socks should know their legs and perform the proper daily foot care to determine if there are any marks, skin irritations or other skin changes.
Always check the width of your shoes while wearing orthopedic socks. There should be ample toe space, and the shoe should not cause indentations, pinch off the skin, or squeeze the foot.
Avoid Infections and Allergy
Irritation or a reddened rash could indicate a possible fungal or bacterial infection. These symptoms should be immediately assessed by a physician.
Itchiness could indicate an allergy to the elastic bands, other stocking material/packaging ingredient. Always wash your compression hosiery before you wear them. If the sensitivity gets worse, try finding a stocking made from a different material.
Some Special Cautions
- Diabetics should always perform regular foot care when wearing compression hosiery.
- Certain foot conditions should be evaluated by a doctor before wearing support socks or hosiery.
- Stop wearing the compression socks immediately if numbness, tingling, or pain occurs while wearing them.
Compression socks and other types of orthopedic socks can be terrific supportive wear. They have shown some remarkable and promising results when used correctly.
Follow the sizing and application instructions for best results.