What Do Compression Socks Do? – A Complete Guide

Compression socks, sometimes known as pressure socks, are specialty garments designed to apply pressure to your legs and maintain blood flow. They also minimize swelling and discomfort.

Doctors around the world recommend these socks to help issues like venous disease, swollen feet during pregnancy, heart disease, and stress from standing for long periods.

How Do They Work?

Compression socks provide extra pressure to your feet, ankles, calves, and sometimes thighs.

They come in varieties ranging from the lightest at 15 mmHg, and the strongest over-the-counter option at 50 mmHg. Whatever you need, these socks can help improve circulation in your lower limbs. 

When you’re standing for long hours or otherwise inactive, the veins in your legs may become dilated and struggle to return blood to your heart. This results in symptoms like:

  • Swollen feet
  • Pain
  • Numbness
  • Aggravated existing conditions

Compression socks reduce the diameter of the veins, increasing blood flow. This helps prevent venous blood from “falling” back in the lower limbs by pushing it towards the heart, thus helping to improve circulation.

What is DVT?

Deep vein thrombosis (DVT) is one of the most common issues that pressure socks and hosiery help prevent and solve. DVT can lead to a common life-threatening complication called a pulmonary embolism. The signs and symptoms of DVT include calf swelling, edema, and localized calf pain. A limb with DVT is usually swollen, warm, and has edema. In other words, DVT refers to thrombus forming in the deep veins. 

Most of the veins in your limbs have valves that assist with venous return. In DVT, thrombus occurs in the lower extremity veins to cause clotting. Though there are several causes of deep vein thrombosis, compression socks can usually help improve circulation, eliminating DVT in the limbs.

What Causes Swelling?

Foot swelling can have many causes, but the principle is simple. When your veins can’t properly return blood to your heart, the liquid in the blood permeates outside the capillaries and into the tissues. This improper drainage can be caused by long hours of standing, by not moving your feet enough, or by having improper venous valves.

These valves are the dams of your lower limbs. Their role is to prevent blood from falling back in the veins during transport to the heart. In time or due to certain illnesses, these valves can be destroyed so the blood can’t drain properly.

Swelling in the feet can also be caused by obesity, pregnancy, or excessive heat. In obesity and pregnancy, blood does not drain adequately because the abdominal pressure prevents it from getting back to the heart.

When it is hot outside, our blood vessels get dilated to help the body eliminate excessive heat. While this is an ingenious mechanism, it also leads to feet swelling. Another condition that leads to feet swelling is improper shoes or standing on heels for a very long time.

Anyone who has worn heels regularly knows the unpleasant feeling of painful, swollen feet. It’s caused by improper drainage while wearing tight shoes or heels.

When Should Compression Socks Be Used?

skin bulging and ankle swelling

Physicians use compression stockings and socks to treat different issues. For example, people who have heart failure are recommended to use them to decrease the chance of swollen feet. Patients who have cancer also often experience swollen feet due to medication and illness. And many people use these compression socks to increase comfort during pregnancy.

You don’t need to have a health issue to benefit from compression socks, though. Many healthcare professionals, for example, are fans of compression stockings for daily wear.

These professionals might wear them during long shifts, even if they have perfect veins. This is because standing still leads to swollen feet, cramps, and discomfort, no matter what. Nurses, for example, are notorious for their colorful and cheerful socks. And many surgeons wear them while in the OR for more comfort.

Benefits of Compression Socks and Hosiery

  • Enhance lymphatic drainage
  • Alleviate venous hypertension
  • DVT prevention
  • Prevent economy class syndrome when flying commercial
  • Prevent venous ulcers
  • Minimize the effects of orthostatic hypotension
  • Get rid of leg swelling in lower extremities
  • Prevent pooling in your legs and lower extremities
  • Prevent clotting in your legs and lower extremities
  • Eliminate spider veins
  • Eliminate varicose veins

Can I Wear Them Daily?

cute pressure hoses

Yes, compression socks can be worn whenever you want. Many health professionals wear them daily to prevent swollen feet and varicose veins.

Also, many people wear them in the office for increased foot comfort. Flight attendants, for example, are known for being fans of compression stockings. Even passengers of long flights are recommended to wear them.

Contraindications

Compression socks are generally considered safe to use. However, loose-fitting pressure socks may cause discomfort and pressure necrosis.

Can I Wear Knee-High or Thigh-High Medical Hosiery for Sports?

who should wear medical hosiery

Yes, many professional athletes wear compression socks for training. The extra pressure helps blood flow, resulting in better performance and reduced post-training soreness.

You’ll find compression socks explicitly made for sports with distinctive designs to support in the heel, ankle, and toes. If you’re an athlete, you might feel much better if you try training in them.

Are Compression Socks & Compression Stocking Suitable?

very effective hoses

Compression socks are made to provide comprehensive support for anyone. No matter your BMI or anatomy, you’ll find a suitable pair. Sizes are calculated using the measurements of your ankle, calf, thigh, and shoe size. This helps you find the perfect pair for you.

Even if you’re not standing all day, you can wear them to prevent varicose veins and improve your general foot health.

Do They Have Side Effects?

Compression socks have the same side effects as regular socks. The recommended pressure for daily wear is between 20-30 mmHg. This is a light compression for your legs and lower extremities.

The most common side effects include irritation, numbness, and discomfort. Discomfort can also occur if the socks are fitted incorrectly or if you are allergic to the material. These symptoms are rare, but discuss them with your physician if you experience anything similar.

How Fast Will I See Results After Using Healthy Medical Socks?

Depending on your symptoms, you might see results in a few hours or a few weeks. If you have swollen feet from standing, you might see results on the first day that you wear them to work. If you have a chronic condition, you may need to wait for at least a few days to see results. Like any prescription, compression socks must be worn as instructed to work.

Summary

Compression socks and stockings can help you regain normal blood flow in your feet and legs. They can prevent swollen feet, varicose veins, and other potentially dangerous conditions like DVT and venous insufficiency.

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