Last Updated February 15, 2020
The blood flow in our bodies has a vital role to play in keeping our bodies healthy. If the body fluid gets disturbed, several medical issues arise. It can be very mild to a dangerous health concern. The body tissue is covered with numerous blood vessels. They play an important role in the exchange of gas, nutrients, and metabolic wastes from tissue cells to the blood cells, keeping the body balanced. The blood flow through the vessels depends on hydrostatic and osmotic pressure created on the vessel wall. The rate of the fluid movement is inversely proportional to the cross-sectional area of the blood vessel.
The lesser the area, the more fluid passes to the heart through the vessels. As the blood flow rate decreases, several health problems arise. Due to the lack of oxygen supply, the blood cells start to clot, resulting in a blockage inside the blood vessels.
This is where compression socks come into play. Compression socks or compression stockings are garments, made up of elastic materials. They are comparatively tighter than normal socks and put pressure on the blood vessels. The vessels transport oxygen-enriched fluid to arteries and carbon dioxide contained fluid back to the heart along with gaseous and other exchanges. Once, the basic function is interrupted, the body shows symptoms such as numbness, tingling sensations, swelling, difficulty in concentrating, ulcers in legs, muscle cramping, fatigue, varicose veins, etc.
Compression socks are such types of socks that put pressure on legs. The external pressure created by the socks prevents blood cells from clotting. The socks put force on the body tissue of the limb, which reduces the diameter of the veins. So, the blood flow accelerates.
Compression socks are mostly tighter around the ankles, and then gradually are less tight around the knees and thighs. Knee-high compression socks are also helpful in reducing blood clots along with increasing the blood flow. It is also used to treat ulcers in lower ankles. The compression socks also create new blood veins by pushing the blood into the endothelial tissues.
Benefits of wearing compression socks
There are several beneficial uses of wearing compression socks. Few are listed below along with their use.
- Compression socks for runners
There are several sports such as marathon, cricket, football or any other time enduring activities where physical exhaustion is much higher. Compression socks can be a vital accessory for such sports/activities. Compression socks for runners are designed to give a tight grasp to the legs. The running compression socks compress the veins and arteries on the surface, reducing the swelling and muscle soreness. The pressure does not let the blood pool on the legs. As the pressure reduces the area of veins, the blood reaches the heart quickly.
- Compression socks for long journey/travel
While traveling for long hours, good compression socks will help you to reduce the numbness, soreness, and will give instant relief to your swollen feet.
- Clotting disorder DVT
Deep vein thrombosis or DVT is a type of blood clot that occurs within the deep vein. The clot formed with the vein is called venous thrombosis. The deep vein thrombosis often occurs to a large vein system, starting from the calf to the pelvic area. The primary symptom is swelling. There are several best compression socks for swelling available in the market.
- Swelling or edema
Compression socks are also used to treat swelling due to random injuries or inflammations. The lymphatic system is a special vessel network that functions to transport proteins, lipids, and waste products from the tissue. The lymph nodes filter the lymphocyte cells and return the excess fluid to the stream. When a lymphatic node gets damaged and the blood flow becomes irregular, secondary edema or swelling happens.
- Venous ulcers
Venous hypertension on the lower leg causes blood pooling which cannot go back to the heart causing pressure on the veins. The veins get stretched out, allowing the proteins and blood cells to leech on to the surrounding wall of the vessel. Thus, the inner area of the veins gets shortened. So, the flow becomes slow due to that. The skin color of that area changes to dark red or purple, due to Venous ulcer. Wearing compression socks helps keep the venous ulcer in control.
- Orthostatic hypotension
A pair of good compression socks help you combat the preliminary symptoms of orthostatic hypotension.
- Diabetic patients
Diabetic patients are prone to wounding easily and as compared to the normal people, these wounds tend to heal very slowly. The small cuts and injuries in the leg caused by ill-fitting shoes, wrinkled socks, or doing physical work continuously can become a big problem for diabetic patients. Wearing the best compression socks provides diabetic patients with a seamless feeling, and asserts proper pressure to avoid cuts and injuries.
- Pregnant women
The body fluid in the body gets increased during pregnancy, and so does the veins and vessels in the body. As the vein area gets increased, the flow becomes slower, and due to gravity and weak contraction forces, the blood tends to pool in the legs, causing swollen feet. A well-fitting good pair of compression socks for edema helps the blood flow in pregnant women.
In several medical surgeries, phlebitis occurs due to blood clotting in the veins. It can be a minor problem if it happens on the skin surface. But, in the case of a deep vein, if the clot breaks off and reaches the lungs, a serious problem may occur.
Increased blood pressure in the veins can cause fibrin deposition in the vein wall causing necrosis, which is medically termed as lipodermatosclerosis. This can be controlled by wearing a pair of good compression socks to maintain a normal blood pressure rate.
How do compression socks work?
Compression socks create a uniform pressure throughout their length to keep the blood circulation normal. While traveling for long hours, often subtle soreness and swelling occur. This swelling is normal due to the lack of movement. But in the case of history with deep vein thrombosis patients, the long flight journey can be a difficult one. A pair of good compression socks help to create external pressure on legs. The pressure decreases the peripheral surface of the veins, resulting in a decrease in the cross-sectional area of the veins. As the fluid passing the area decreases, the blood passes at high speed. Thus, the fluid does not get accumulated in the leg.
The blood pool in the leg causes edema and swelling and sometimes discoloration in skin tone. In diabetic patients, wounding can be very severe. The clot does not occur immediately. It happens due to the lack of healthy oxygenated blood cells. The compression socks are made up of elastic material which provides a seamless feeling without any wrinkles. It reduces the chances of wounding. So, if you are wondering what are the best compression socks for swelling, we have every piece of information for you.
Types of compression socks
Almost all variants of the compression socks provide a basic level of comfort in reducing the overall swelling and edema. But depending on your requirements, compression socks can be of various types. There are mainly three types of compression socks. They are as mentioned below.
- Graduated compression stockings
Graduated or medical compression socks are made up of thin elastic materials to provide you with a seamless feeling. The sock provides the greatest degree of compression around the ankles and the compression decreases gradually up to the upper part of the leg.
The graduated compression socks can be of different lengths. They can be of ankle length, which is best for light works and jogging. It can be of mid-knee-length, which helps combat peripheral edema and lower leg swelling. The knee-length and waist-length socks are perfect for medical conditions. It prevents the blood pool in legs preventing orthostatic hypotension, clotting disorder DVT, phlebitis, Lipodermatosclerosis, venous ulcers, Orthostatic hypotension, Lymphatic drainage, etc. These type of socks is typically prescribed by doctors.
- Anti-embolism stockings or TED hose
These types of compression socks are differently designed for bedridden patients who cannot move or function naturally on their own. Just like the graduated compression socks, anti-embolism socks or TED hose also provide gradient compression to the leg. The difference between anti-embolism stockings or TED hose and the graduated compression socks is that TED is personally designed for a particular patient.
The required blood pressure in the leg is first determined by the doctors or the specialist and then the socks are recommended based on the determination. It is also required to measure the leg size of the patient before choosing the right pair of these compression socks.
There are 2 types of anti-embolism socks, based on the length of the socks: knee-length or thigh length.
- Non-Medical support hosiery
As the name suggests, it is not medically used. The compression support is not gradual either. The compression is uniform throughout the length of the socks. Non-Medical support socks do not provide compression as compared to the graduated compression socks, rather it is less tight than the other two types of socks.
The Non-Medical support hosiery socks are made up of simple elastic materials and do not require medical diagnosis or guidelines from specialists to wear. These types of socks can be easily bought without prescriptions.
Things you need to know before buying compression socks
Compression socks are not your regular socks. So, some facts should be kept in mind while thinking of getting a pair for yourself or a patient in need of these socks. In most cases, they are strictly prescribed either by doctors or specialists. Here are the things you need to know before buying compression socks; ask yourself the following:
- What are the best compression socks for swelling: Before buying a compression sock, you have to study the functions of each type of compression socks, in order to choose the best for you.
- Talk to your physician: Before getting yourself a compression sock, consult your health problems with your doctor. Whether it can be treated with medicines or if compression socks would be compulsorily needed. If your doctor prescribes you with compression socks, then make sure that you fulfill your queries regarding what are the best compression socks for swelling.
Consider factors such as which socks to buy, where to buy, how long you have to wear it, how to wear it, etc. In the case of graduated and anti-embolism compression socks, a doctor’s prescription is a must thing. In case of anti-embolism compression socks or TED hose, often it is advised to wear the compression socks under the guidance of the specialist.
- Get measured properly: In the case of non-medical hosiery socks, there is no such guideline to follow. But in the case of graduated compression socks and anti-embolism compression socks or TED hose socks, measurements are mandatory. As these are medical socks, you must carefully measure the size of your leg, the diameter of your leg, and the length of your leg along with your vitals such as; blood pressure rate, sugar level everything has to be taken care of first.
For bedridden patients, as they can’t move on their own, the compression socks should be put on them while they are lying with face upwards. The optimum pressure has to be calculated keeping all the vitals of the patient in mind.
- Quality of the socks: If you are not buying it from your doctor or specialist, then make sure you check the quality of the elastic. As non-medical socks can be used by anyone, local pharmacists may provide a low-quality product. Using these socks will not help your medical conditions. In the worst-case scenario, it can even deteriorate your present condition. In the case of diabetic patients where wounding can be lethal for them, wearing bad quality products may damage your health.
- Instructions manual of the socks: Compression socks are comparatively tighter than your regular socks. Whereas some socks provide uniform compression such as non-medical socks, some socks provide gradual compression from ankle to waist like graduated and anti-embolism compression socks. It can be uncomfortable to put on compression socks due to the swelling of your leg or due to the tightness of the socks itself. So, before putting on a sock, please go through the instructions properly.
Safety measures to follow while wearing a compression sock
Compression socks are mainly used for health and wellness affairs. And in most of the cases, they are recommended and instructed by experts. But if you are planning to wear them on your own, then, it is advised that you go through a few safety measures while wearing these compression socks.
- Measuring your body vitals: Medical compression socks need mandatory body measurements of the patient. We are talking about factors such as the blood pressure rate, weight, length, and width of the leg. In the case of deep vein thrombosis, it is a mandatory requirement to measure the exact blood flow rate of the patient to design compression socks with optimum pressure.
- Get properly advised how long you have to wear: Wearing compression socks for a long period can impact your health. Often the compression socks make the area of action appear thin compared to before. The skin becomes hard and forms calluses to protect itself from friction. All of these problems arise when they are worn in wrong sizes or if they don’t fit well.
- The correct size and fit: It is strictly advised to get compression socks in actual size, which fits snuggly with your skin and there is no discomfort or itchiness while wearing.
- Know when to contact your doctor: In case of sudden occurrence of pain or numbness, contact your doctor immediately. The sudden increase or decrease in your blood flow rates can have some negative effects on your leg.
- Toe spasms: Well fitted compression socks would not cause any harmful effect. But if you experience sudden violent contractions in your toe, immediately discard your compression socks and don’t wear it unless you are prescribed by your doctor.
- Unwanted smelling and numbness: If your compression sock is way too much tight than your requirements, your limb cannot be felt, often known as pins and needles.
- Itching and skin irritation: When the fabric of your compression sock material is too harsh on your skin, you may feel sudden itchiness. The skin of that compressed area may irritate you. If that happens, an allergy test will best for you.
- Knee joint pain: The correct size and fitting will decrease your knee joint pain. But wearing socks in the wrong size can cause you more pain than before.
Best compression stockings
Keeping your medical requirements in mind, you have to look for the best compression socks available out in the market. Although in most cases, the compression socks are advised by the doctor or the specialist and it is the best for the patient’s welfare. But in case of mild swelling, you can go for low compression socks or non-medical compression socks.
For sports purposes, a normal compression sock would be the best, though some of the sportsmen prefer socks with high compression to move or run freely. During running or any other physical activities, the legs often feel numbness and soreness and this is where compression socks can provide comfort to the legs.
Best compression socks for men & women
Compression socks are socks that are invented to fulfill the medical requirements of the patients. So, all the compression socks can be worn by either men and women. Compression strength is measured in mmHg. The higher the strength, the compression capacity of the socks is also higher.
Many men prefer a higher compression unit in their socks to perform well in the field or any other physical activities. The higher compression lessens ups the swelling and aches in the leg. The best compression socks for men can promote muscle efficiency, relieve fatigue, and improve blood circulation. Some men prefer low gradual compression socks made up of light breathable elastic materials, which are odor and bacteria resistant for daily purposes.
As previously said, there are no particular compression socks for the genders. But there are some preferences among women, depending on the work preferences. Some women prefer cute prints on their compression socks over monochromatic traditional black and grey compression socks. The calf-length compression socks crawl down or get wrinkled. The non-binding calf-length compression socks help you to surpass the bundled up issue.
How to take care of your compression socks?
A compression sock is mostly like any other regular socks with much higher versatile functions. However, it requires a little extra care.
- Compression socks can be hard to put on as they are very tight. Using baby powders or lotions before putting them on will lessen up the hustle and the impact of the pushing and pulling on your compression socks. This will increase the lifespan of the sock.
- Wearing compression socks to sports or in any other physical activity will get it dirty and messy. So it is advised to have more than one pair of compression socks. Wash your socks regularly to keep them safe from bacterial contamination.
- Everything has a limited lifespan, so does your compression socks. No matter how much you love your favorite socks but eventually you will have to discard them after use for three to four months and replace them with new pairs.
- Don’t keep your compression socks in bundled up or wrinkled condition. It will decrease the elasticity of the fabric of the sock.
- While putting on your compression sock, first roll up the socks up to the heel. Then, put your leg as far as it can reach, keeping your heel at the given place and then unroll the sock up to its length. Lastly, smoothen out the fabric to keep it wrinkle-free.
A compression sock is a very useful discovery in medical science. Compression therapy has been used for treating patients since the Vedic era. But in recent times, the usefulness made it come in an all-new appearance with a lot more other versatile facilities. The compression socks made regular life easier for patients with diabetes, knee joint pains, mild swelling, and wounding along with long flight journeys. The versatility of the compression sock leaves a huge impact on our daily lifestyle that now people who are not diagnosed with health issues also use compression socks. By keeping in mind its safety instructions and proper care, compression socks can make your lives easier.