What Are They For?
Compression socks were invented by a German Engineer, Conrad Jobst together with Dr. Otto Gauer. Other than compression socks, there is a lot of other compression wears on the market like compression stockings, compression sleeves, compression tights, etc. But among all of them, compression socks and stockings might be the most common ones because they are great alternatives to common socks and common stockings to be worn on a daily basis.
They are used to prevent and treat diseases associated with disrupted blood circulation due to prolonged standing and sitting on a daily basis. Most of the occupations these days require that person stand and sit more than 8 hours a day, for example, office workers, nurses, policemen, teachers, waiters, etc. The list can go on and on like the running series of Games of Thrones. That includes me, you and everyone else if you think about it.
Improve Blood Circulations and Eliminate Muscle Soreness
At the end of our long workday, you find your legs, ankles, and feet aching with mild edema too. This is due to not enough movement on the lower extremities, causing the circulation of your blood to not flow smoothly back to your heart against the law of nature, the gravitational effect. So, what happens when your blood circulation is disrupted? If they are not treated at the early stage, they will slowly develop into Venous Reflux Disease.
- Venous Reflux Disease
It is also known as Chronic Venous Insufficiency. Venous Reflux Disease is a medical condition affecting the circulation of blood in the lower extremities. Normally, one-way valves in the veins keep blood flowing toward the heart against the force of gravity. When the valves become weak and do not close properly, they allow blood to flow backward and this is a condition called reflux. When the blood starts pooling in the veins, it can cause the vein to twist or stretch. And this is how varicose veins are developed.
- Varicose Veins
Varicose veins are swollen and twisted veins caused by blood stasis and weak vessel walls. Varicose veins can occur in various parts of the body. They might appear as clusters of blue or purple veins visible underneath the skin and are sometimes surrounded by thin red capillaries known as spider veins. Although varicose veins can occur in various parts of the body, it occurs most often in the lower extremities. Bear in mind, varicose veins are secondary manifestations of other lesions.
Symptoms of Varicose Veins:
- Veins appear to be dark purple or blue in color.
- The superficial blood vessels protrude prominently from the skin like earthworms and the varices are lumpy or nodular.
- Swelling in the legs, discoloration, desquamation, itching of the skin, and edema in the ankles.
- Experiencing various sensations on the lower extremities like itchiness, numbness, acanthesthesia, muscle cramping, and burning.
- The temperature of the epidermis rises and causes tenderness in the lower extremities.
- The occurrence of gangrene and ulcers around a varicose vein.
Other than the above diseases, compression socks and stockings are also great at treating Edema and Deep Vein Thrombosis.
Edema is the medical term for swelling. It refers to the excessive fluid that is accumulated in the interstitial space outside the blood vessels. Microscopically, edema fluid is accumulated between the cells and fibrous connective tissue or in the cavity. The most common causes of Edema are lack of exercise and poor muscle endurance. Edema can affect a small area of the entire body and the most common parts are the lower limbs. It is worth mentioning that medication, pregnancy, infections, and many other medical problems can cause edema too.
- Deep Vein Thrombosis
Deep Vein Thrombosis is a blood clot that often forms in the lower extremities or lower limbs. It prevents blood from flowing normally and it may cause pain or swelling in the legs but it may also be asymptomatic. Deep Vein Thrombosis is usually not life-threatening but it can be life-threatening if the blood clot ruptures and spreads into the lungs.
Other than the four diseases mentioned above, the diseases associated with poor circulation in the lower extremities include Lymphedema, Phlebitis, and Lipodermatosclerosis too.
Why Are Compression Socks/Stockings Useful For The Legs?
Compression socks and stockings are created to combat all the above and more without having to go through surgeries. They are also known as circulation socks if you would like to call them that. While compression socks might look like ordinary socks, they function under completely different principals.
Compression socks gently squeeze your legs and exert compression pressure to encourage blood flow. They help the blood vessels to work more efficiently to carry oxygenated blood, allowing blood to flow more freely and preventing the diseases mentioned above to develop.
Other than its effectiveness in treating and preventing the diseases above, wearing them also helps in healing ulcerative skin that darkens and hardens over time and restores the tortuous veins with lighter tonicity. So, if poor blood circulation is the villain, then compression socks/stockings would be the heroes.
Who Are They Ideal For?
- They are great for athletes/sports enthusiasts especially runners to wear during training to help alleviate delayed-onset muscle soreness.
- Pregnant women are recommended to wear them to help eliminate lower limb edema during the third trimester and to prevent varicose veins thrombosis after delivery.
- Bedridden patients should wear them to prevent deep vein thrombosis due to limited mobility on the lower limbs.
- People with obesity should consider wearing them to help promote better blood circulation because the high levels of blood cholesterol and excessive weight make it difficult for the venous blood to flow back to the heart.
- Last but not least, flight passengers that travel frequently are ideal for wearing them during their flights to treat and prevent the infamous Economy Class Syndrome, which is also deep vein thrombosis.
Basically, anyone can wear compression socks if you choose the pressure level wisely that suits your needs and your health conditions. Consider choosing compression levels of 15-20 mmHg as an entry point to start wearing compression socks to treat your daily soreness and aching of the legs during your long hour shift. Anything above the compression level of 20 mmHg is considered as medical class. So, if you are uncertain about the compression level or if you have medical conditions as mentioned above, consult a doctor for a prescription to be on the safe side. Wearing compression socks is like eating french fries, but wearing one that is right for you is like having french fries with chili sauce and mayo. Better!
Do Not Over Wear Compression Wear to Bed
Do bear in mind that there is no need to wear compression socks to sleep because when you lie down, the legs and the heart are on the same horizontal levels so you do not need any external help for your blood to flow back to your heart. On the other hand, if you wear compression socks to sleep or even prolonged wearing them, it can bring dangerous negative side effects to your body. Like disrupted blood circulation for example.
Also, relying on only external tools to maintain healthy blood flows is not the most ideal way because once your muscles and joints are used to the external support provided by the compression socks/stockings, they will slowly become lazy and go into “hibernation” mode. Your muscles will become weak and your joints and knuckles will become vulnerable when you stop wearing compression socks as a result.
Closing of the Chapter
I hope this article gives you the clarification you need on what compression socks/stockings are used for. They are great medical tools but they are also great alternatives to the day-to-day socks that you are already wearing. So, why not trade your ordinary ones to a pair of compression socks chosen wisely to give your health a boost!