Do your feet always feel cold and numb, even in the middle of summer? Are your legs and ankles swollen? It could be a sign of poor circulation. Symptoms and complications of insufficient blood circulation often occur in the legs and feet because they are located so far from the heart. You might benefit from using compression socks for better circulation.
People who sit or stand for long periods of time often suffer from insufficient circulation. In other cases, poor circulation is a sign of an underlying health condition. In either case, your feet have to carry the weight of your whole body, and this can be excruciatingly painful if they are swollen! What can you do to improve your circulation? Might compression socks be the answer to your problems? Read on to find out!
Causes of Poor Blood Circulation
Fortunately, insufficient circulation is not a fatal, incurable disease in most cases. It is often a symptom of other health conditions such as obesity or high blood pressure. Diabetes can also impact circulation by increasing the likelihood of other conditions. Inadequate blood flow can also be a sign of poor cardiovascular health. If left untreated, poor circulation in the legs and feet can lead to blood clots, varicose veins, diabetes, or peripheral artery disease (PAD). In particular, PAD causes the arteries to narrow, which can further worsen blood flow.
What Are the Symptoms of Poor Circulation in the Feet?
Poor circulation is not a disease. Instead, it is a symptom of an underlying problem. Fortunately, there’s no need to worry since it can be treated in various ways, including simple lifestyle changes.
Not everyone suffering from inadequate circulation experience similar symptoms, so it is sometimes difficult to identify. Some of the most common symptoms include:
- Constant coldness in your feet
- Painful cramps or discomfort in the feet and legs
- Slow wound healing
- Ulcers around your toes and feet
- A prickling sensation
- Feeble pulse in the legs or feet
- Hair loss or slow leg growth
- Pain and aching in your calves while standing or walking
When you notice any of these symptoms, talk to your healthcare provider. He or she can identify the causes of insufficient circulation in your body and recommend appropriate treatment, which often includes compression therapy.
How Do Compression Stockings Improve Poor Circulation?
Compression socks can help improve poor circulation by squeezing the muscles and blood vessels. This causes contractions which help the blood to move more efficiently through the leg and back to the heart. Compression stockings typically feature graduated pressure that is tightest at the ankle and weaker further upwards, closer to the heart.
Compression is measured in millimeters of mercury, mmHg. Since there are many available levels of compression, you should talk to your doctor about which one will be best for you. Your doctor will also advise you on how long to wear the socks every day, although most people benefit from wearing them throughout the day.
Compression socks are also worn by athletes to increase the supply of oxygen-rich blood in the muscles during exercise. By improving your circulation, they also help with post-workout recovery and protect tissues from swelling, pain, and damage.
The Best Compression Socks for Poor Circulation
The sheer number of compression sock styles and brands can make it hard to decide which one to get. While many socks are made to have a unisex fit, there are some that are specifically designed for women. They are also available in a wide variety of designs and colors.
How to Improve Poor Blood Circulation with Compression Socks
In addition to compression gear, your doctor may also suggest some lifestyle changes that can help to improve your circulation.
Try to avoid sitting in one place for a long period of time. Standing up several times throughout the day can really make a difference in your circulation. If you are able to exercise, that will also get the blood moving. Even simple foot exercises can help.
Your doctor may also suggest that your quit smoking, eat a healthy diet, and try to lose weight to help improve your circulation. Some also recommend Gingko supplements, which may help open up your blood vessels. Don’t forget to also make appropriate changes to your wardrobe. Clothing that is too tight can impede circulation.
It is important to remember that, if left untreated, poor circulation can result in a heart attack, stroke or amputation. Make sure your follow your doctor’s advice and wear your compression socks so you can get pain relief and avoid these more serious problems.
Select socks that fit snugly but not tightly. Avoid styles that have an elastic band at the top as these hinder proper circulation.
Make sure you have socks appropriate to your activity and to the season. You will want different socks for cold weather and warm weather, for example. You may also need different socks for formal and casual wear or different socks for sleeping.
Talk to your doctor about how to correctly put on compression socks. Since the socks work by offering different compression levels at different parts of the leg, it is important that they are worn the right way. Socks are generally made of a mix of rubber, spandex, nylon, and Lycra, and the tight fit can make the task of getting them on and off seem daunting. Your doctor can show you the best techniques, including how to ensure there are no folds or wrinkles.
You also need to make sure you purchase socks that offer the right level of compression for your condition. Typically, they are available in the ranges of 8-10 mmHg to 40-50 mmHg. Keep in mind that a prescription is required for socks that offer more than 20 mmHg compression. Your doctor can give you more advice on this.
For best results, wear your compression socks all day and remove them at night. If you find it uncomfortable to do that or wear them as otherwise prescribed, talk with your doctor. You may need a different size or compression level.
Wear your compression gear during exercise. Both athletes and those with underlying medical conditions can benefit from improved circulation. Athletes who wear compression socks find them useful for a quick recovery.
It is incredibly important to wear compression socks while at work if your job requires you to sit and stand for long periods of time. Medical-grade compression socks will deliver the most benefits in these situations as they ease leg fatigue, prevent edema, and improve circulation.
Diabetic socks are different from compression socks because they don’t have seams or elastic tops and are made to fit more loosely.
Always consult your physician before you start wearing compression socks.