Compression stocking and sleeves are in use since the 1960s. Today, they are in use more than ever before. They have found applications in hospitals, sports, and for treatment of various foot and leg problems.
What is Support Hosiery?
Support hosiery includes compression socks, sleeves, and pantyhose and is most commonly known for their use in treatment and reducing symptoms of various venous disorders, fatigue, soreness, and swollen legs.
A common issue faced today by many of us is the swelling of feet and ankles due to the accumulation of blood and other fluids in feet and ankle. In some severe cases, the swelling can go up to the knees or even thighs. This swelling or dependent edema can cause extreme heaviness, soreness, and discomfort. It can also hinder mobility and make traveling very difficult.
Several remedies are used to reduce swelling and fight edema. These include oral medicine, the elevation of the lower body, lowering salt intake, and the use of compression hosiery.
How Do They Work?
Support hose is a type of compression therapy and is equally famous among men and women of all ages. The basic principle on which the whole concept of compression therapy resides in the application of continuous pressure on your limbs by wrapping an elastic material around them.
The pressure is maximum at the toes and feet and is minimum at the knee or thighs (depending on the type of stockings knee-high or thigh-high).
This pressure gradient prevents the fluids from pooling in the lower extremities. Compression on the surface of the limbs constricts the veins and blood vessels and gently squeezes them, reducing their diameter. This increases the pressure of the fluid inside them, forcing it to flush toward the core of the body. The heart then pumps fresh blood towards the limbs every time it beats and thus reduces swelling.
Based on shape
Compression stockings are available in an assortment of configurations. You can find them in the form of a closed-toe (regular socks style), sleeves, and open-toes. The most common of these are closed-toe type; however, it all depends on your preference and personal choice.
Compression sleeves are similar to regular socks but the lack the foot part and end at or just below the ankles. Another type that is now available in the market is the open-toe style socks. Open-toe socks cover your feet and ankles end just before the beginning of toe. This type is preferred by individuals who want their toes to be naked or feel achy on the fingertips.
You can choose from a diversity of choices when it comes to color schemes. Compression socks are notorious for being of flashy colors and designs. Different designs, patterns, colors have made the socks popular, especially among youngsters and athletes.
The newest designs from manufacturers of support socks include exclusive colors for runners, casual wear, nurses, and for work. Men can choose from natural shades to wear at work. Classic black is the most famous among men. While women mostly prefer skin toned and light-colored socks. Nurses, medical staff, and post-surgery recovery patients use white-colored socks or according to their uniform rules.
Another vital classification filter for the compression stockings is their size and lengths. When we look at the length, there are regular, ankle-high, thigh-high, knee-high, and pantyhose. These lengths determine the coverage area of the hose. For instance, ankle-high socks cover the feet only and end just below the ankles; thigh-high socks cover your thighs up to the base of your pelvis region and knee-high cover your shins up to the knee caps.
Pantyhose, also known as sheer tights in the UK are usually worn by women who can provide the ladies with appropriate covering and protection from feet up till the waist. Men have an alternative in the form of chaps that covers the legs and has an integrated belt as well.
Sizes of compression garments (of all lengths and types) are usually the same as your standard feet size. They can vary according to the feet size of your countries like International, US, and Euro sizes. So to choose the correct size of your sock, keep in mind your foot size.
You must choose a sock of correct size; otherwise, it will not be able to do its job effectively. You can also increase the risk of folds and kinks while wearing the wrong size sock.
One of the most critical factors for the classification of compression socks is the compression gradient of compression classes. Principally compression socks apply a known amount of continuous pressure on your limbs. This pressure can vary from light or mild to high, creating the following classes:
- 8 to 15 mmHg:
These stockings are the ones with the lightest of the compression. The compression is so light that you may not be able entirely to feel it. These are for light and rare swelling of feet and ankles.
- 15 to 20 mmHg:
Mild compression socks have compression in this range. This type of socks is for mild swelling, tiredness, and pain in the limbs.
- 20 to 30 mmHg:
This is the most common compression category. Moderate compression of 20 to 30 mmHg is effective for DVT (Deep Vein Thrombosis), Post-surgical recovery, dependent edema, diabetes, swollen feet and ankles, and varicose veins. It is also suitable for post-injury trauma, chronic venous insufficiency, and superficial thrombophlebitis.
- 30 to 40 mmHg:
This category of compression stockings applies the highest amount of pressure on your limbs and skin, i.e., 30 to 40 mmHg. This type is commonly used to treat lymphedema, elephantiasis, and recovering from severe ulcers. You must not use high compression socks unless prescribed by your physician in rare cases.
Maternity pantyhose are so common among pregnant mothers that they are available in the market as a separate category. These types of hoses are comfortable for the mothers and support them in movement and mobility. If you are preparing to become a mother or stepping into parenthood, a pair of these can be beneficial for you during the process.
- 8 to 15 mmHg:
Compression socks are readily available online and on your nearest drugstores. You do not need a doctor’s prescript to buy a pair. You have to know your size, the compression level you require (according to your condition).
With online shopping, you can easily order your favorite socks. You can enjoy certain perks like free shipping, sales, coupons, and discounts. If you do not find a time slot in your busy schedule to go looking for compression socks in a store, then online shopping is best for you. However, some people prefer buying the socks over the counter as it lets them wear it and experience it for themselves. You can also feel the fabric, compression level suitable, and choose the design/color of the garment to your liking.
Remember that compression stockings are a type of therapeutic or recovery hosiery. If you are suffering from a chronic or dangerous to health diseases like ulcers or severe clotting, it is best if you consult your physician and discuss the treatment.
Medical Uses and Benefits of Compression Hose
The use of compression therapy has been clinically proven to bring a positive and healthy change in your lifestyle. You can use these stockings to control, reduce, and even treat several diseases and medical conditions. You can enjoy the following benefits with regular use of appropriate elastic compression hosiery:
Manage swelling and dependent edema
Compression therapy is highly effective in managing dependent edema and swollen legs. Depending on the stage and condition of swelling, compression sleeves (and socks) can keep the disease under control and promote mobility. In cases of mild or minor swelling, these socks can be useful only when needed. However, chronic edema patients must not discontinue regular use without discussing it with their doctor as it can worsen their symptoms.
Control chronic venous disease
Peripheral venous insufficiency and chronic venous disorders can create considerable problems in blood circulation through the legs and feet. This disease hinders deoxygenated blood from the lower limbs to move back towards the heart and to replace it with nutrient-rich fresh blood from the heart.
Avoid Deep Vein Thrombosis
Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT) is a condition in which the body fluids start accumulating in the lower extremities of the body and cause heaviness and even clotting. This unwanted clotting in the blood vessels can cause extreme discomfort, pain, and soreness. The use of compression socks can help the wearer avoid DVT and prevent blood accumulation in feet.
Lymph fluid (a part of the human body’s lymphatic system) can accumulate in the lymph vessels instead of seeping back into the blood regularly and can cause lymphedema. This condition has symptoms similar to edema and can cause extreme heaviness and discomfort. Compression socks can negate or reverse these symptoms to an extent and give relief to the wearer.
Varicose veins are common in feet and leg area. These appear as twisted, swollen, and distended veins just beneath the skin surface. They are usually visible on the outside and present an unpleasant look. If they develop in a patient, they do not heal by themselves. Varicose veins are an indication of weak and damaged venous walls and valves. Compression therapy is known to reduce the inflammation caused by varicose veins and stop their advancement as well.
Reduce the risk of phlebitis
The clotting and inflammation in veins of feet or legs due to injury or infection give rise to phlebitis. This condition can be moderate to severe, depending on the clotting and weakness of the veins. Individuals suffering from varicose veins should wear compression socks regularly to reduce the risk of phlebitis as they are more susceptible to this disease.
Pregnant mothers are often suggested by their doctors to wear compression socks to control the volumetric increase in leg veins and edema symptoms while standing and moving. Hormonal changes and weight gain can also produce these issues. Compression stockings come in handy during pregnancy and provide adequate support to lower limbs of pregnant women.
Post-surgical recovery treatment
Post-surgical recovery was the compression socks’ earliest medical use and still is. Post-surgical rehabilitation can include long durations of immobility on bed and wheelchair. In cases when the recovery time is long, and the patient cannot move around, much blood circulation through lower limbs become limited and can give rise to several health disorders of feet and legs (including edema and clot formation). Doctors recommend compression hosiery for all such patients.
Protection of your feet and ankles
An overwhelming advantage of wearing compression socks is protection from cuts, injuries, and insect bites. This use of the stockings might seem unimportant, but individuals who have diabetes can find it a lifesaver. People with diabetes require proper medical foot care, and protection and compression socks can provide them with it. Hikers, bikers, and runners can also use them as protection for their feet and legs.
For sportspeople and athletes
As discussed above, sportsmen and athletes can use compression socks to protect their feet and legs. But this is the secondary use of compression hosiery for them. The main advantage of the socks is that it provides adequate support (to joints, muscles, and connected tendons) and helps them in moving effectively. Compression hoses can also prevent over bending, sprains, or any other awkward movement.
You don’t have to compromise on your looks and fashion sense only because you have some feet problems to take care of. You can maintain your style and even polish it further by compression socks. They have become an essential accessory for runners and athletes worldwide. Choose your favorite style, designs, and colors to stand out among your friends. Order a pair today!
How to Choose Your Pair?
As discussed in detail in there is a variety of compression socks available in the market depending on their size, shape, compression, and length. If you are not suffering from a specific medical condition, you should use the prescribed brand, length, and compression of the socks.
If you are buying yourself, there are a few things you need to care about, like your feet size, compression range suitable for you, length, fabric, or material, and color.
If you aren’t certain of the size that will best suit you and you are ordering the socks online, you can take the exact measurement of your foot and then proceed with your shopping. If you are buying from a store, you can try a different size and see it for yourself. You can request the local staff for help as well.
Compression socks and sleeves consist of a range of materials and fabric, including spandex, rubber, elastic fibers, cotton, nylon-polymer, silk, and artificial wool. If you sweat more on your feet and toes, you can choose breathable material socks for yourself.
When choosing thigh-high socks for yourself, remember a general rule; there should be a space of two fingers above the hose and the beginning of your pelvis area. Make sure that you don’t buy a pair that is either too long or too short for you. It is not a good practice to fold your socks from the top or leave any kinks or fold in it as well. If the socks do not fit you perfectly, then they will not be able to effectively keep the fluid out of your limbs and improve the blood circulation.
How to Wear and Take care of your Compression Socks?
You can wear compression socks during the day and remove them before going to bed. You can put your socks back on first thing in the morning as swelling is relatively less in the morning, and it is easier for you to slip your feet in them. You can wear them while doing your day to day work, sitting, standing, walking, and even running or exercising.
You should not use any ointments, Vaseline, oils, or skincare products before putting on your stockings as it may damage the material. It is always an excellent technique to trim your toenails regularly if it is using support hosiery as they can nick and damage the fabric from the inside.
The average life of compression socks can vary and depend on the type of material and the way you use them. Good quality socks can last longer if you wear them carefully and take appropriate care while washing them. Hand drying and washing at room temperature can keep your stockings in good condition.
Healthcare professionals agree on the amazing qualities that compression therapy possesses in providing relief in many medical conditions. They can improve your general well-being and are a healthy addition to your lifestyle. Such remedy with so many benefits and very few or none side-effects is a must-have. Buy your pair today and get rid of swollen feet.