Orthopedic socks are great for maintaining healthy feet and legs. Orthopedic socks, compression socks and diabetic socks are all specially designed to provide support in some way to the lower extremities of the human body.
What are Orthopedic Socks?
By definition, orthopedics means the correction or prevention of deformities, disorders, or injuries of the skeleton and associated structures (such as tendons and ligaments).
Orthopedic socks are also compression socks that provide support to the feet and legs through applying gentle pressure on the limbs. This would promote better blood flow from the lower extremities to the heart.
Orthopedic socks can also help reduce swelling in the feet, ankles and calves, and prevent the accompanying pain and discomfort associated with swelling. They come in a variety of types, sizes, and lengths from ankle-high athletic socks to thigh-high compression stockings. There are other forms of orthopedic support available, such as orthopedic shoes.
What are the Differences Between Orthopedic Socks and Other Socks?
Orthopedic socks can be worn by individuals with a foot or toe deformity, a complicated or severe foot injury, extremely wide bunions, an open sore, or a neurological disease that affects the feet.
These differ from diabetic socks, for instance. While orthopedic socks, similar to compression socks, aim to increase constriction so that blood can return easily to the heart, diabetic socks are non-elastic and seamless to reduce the constriction that often occurs in swelling.
Regular socks are typically made from cotton, which can trap moisture. They may be too tight or loose-fitting and contain seams which can increase friction and/or slow circulation in the foot.
What do Orthopedic Socks do?
Orthopedic compression socks work by applying steady pressure to veins in the calves, ankles, and feet. As more blood is pushed upwards by the compression socks, the diameter of the veins constrict or reduce, bringing relief to circulatory discomfort.
The pressure can help prevent any back flow of blood as it attempts to reach the heart; back flow can occur in patients with heart-pumping issues and/or a variety of blood circulatory conditions.
Why are Orthopedic Doctors Recommending These Socks?
They are recommended for the following reasons:
- Prevents blood from pooling in the legs,
- Boosts circulation,
- Prevents and reduces swelling,
- Provides support to calves, ankles, and feet,
- Prevents venous ulcerations,
- Helps correct venous-related hypertension,
- Helps minimize pain from varicose veins,
- Helps prevent deep vein thrombosis,
- Can lessen dizziness and other factors from orthostatic hypotension,
- May improve lymphatic drainage.
Uses of Orthopedic Compression Socks
1. Sports and Fitness
A lot of athletes and active individuals 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 as they have been known to help with faster recovery time.
Many occupations require an individual to be on their feet constantly, such as nurses, while others require them to sit for long hours, such as pilots.
Frequent standing or moving: Because of constantly standing or moving, blood can quickly accumulate in the lower extremities, causing swelling, aches, pain or other discomforts. If left ignored, things could worsen or injuries may occur. Compression socks help with circulation to reduce the chances of aches from developing.
Sitting all day: Desk workers or professions such as airline pilots tend to sit way more than they stand; however, when you sit for long periods of time, you can develop a condition called deep vein thrombosis (DVT). DVT is when a blood clot forms in a vein deep inside the body, usually in the legs. Wearing compression socks can not only help reduce the pain and swelling caused by DVT, but it can help prevent DVT from developing at all.
Traveling requires you to be seated for long periods of time, similar to the point made above. Traveling by air can cause further discomfort because of the lack of mobility, soaring at a high altitude, and cold temperature maintained in the airplane’s cabin.
Pregnant women tend to develop swelling in their feet, as well as suffer from bodily aches. Varicose veins may also occur. Wearing compression socks can help reduce swelling, prevent varicose veins, and even lower the risk of DVT developing.
5. Other Orthopedic Patient Uses
Plantar fasciitis sufferers may 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.
Types of Orthopedic Compression Socks
In general, there are two main types available:
1. Graduated compression stockings, or socks.
2. Anti-embolism compression stockings, also known as TED hosiery.
1. Graduated Compression Stockings
- The compression level is graduated, meaning that it has been designed to apply greater pressure in the ankles, with gradually lesser compression as the sock, or stocking, moves higher up.
- They are available in different levels of compression, measured in millimeters of mercury (or mmHg).
- They come 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. All styles are available to men and women alike.
- You do not need a prescription for graduated compression socks with a mild compression level. You can find them at many online or offline retail stores. However, they may require a special fitting to ensure proper length and size. First-time compression sock users are urged to take the time to properly put them on and evaluate each based on effect and comfort.
2. Anti-Embolism Compression Stockings
- Higher grade compression socks are also available, but they usually need to be prescribed by a doctor. These are called anti-embolism compression stockings, or thrombo-embolic deterrent (TED) hosiery.
- These stockings are usually used to prevent the risks of serious circulatory problems like deep vein thrombosis (DVT) and other blood clotting conditions.
Tips When Choosing Orthopedic Compression Socks
Even though compression socks provide many benefits, there are some tips to consider when choosing these garments.
1. Ensure Proper Fitting and Sizing
- First and foremost, any style of orthopedic socks or compression hosiery needs to fit properly for optimal health benefits and to avoid discomfort.
- Prescribed compression socks 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.
- Always check the width of your shoes while wearing these socks. There should be ample toe space, and the shoe should not cause indentations, pinch off the skin, or squeeze the foot.
2. Check the Material Used
- Skin irritation or a rash that develops from putting on compression socks may indicate an allergic reaction to the material, or 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 ingredients.
- Always wash your compression hosiery before you wear them.
- If irritation persists, try finding a stocking made from a different material.
3. Consult with a Doctor
- 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.
- The most important factor to consider when purchasing compression socks is choosing the right compression pressure level. Too high of the compression pressure will suffocate your legs and cause disruption to the blood flow in the lower extremities; too low of the compression pressure will not provide you the compression therapy you are looking for.
They have shown some remarkable and promising results when worn correctly and with an appropriate size and fit. They are recommended by health professionals as they can prevent and help treat circulatory issues in the feet and legs. They can also be worn during work, sports or travel for comfort and added health benefits.
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