Perhaps you have seen compression stockings in a store, or friends or acquaintances have mentioned using them, but you are unfamiliar with them and have wondered who might wear such things, and under what circumstances. Let us briefly proceed to define compression socks, describe the symptoms, conditions, or needs that might be addressed with their use, identify the different types and styles, and note how they are properly worn.
What are compression stockings (socks)?
Compression socks differ from traditional athletic or dress socks primarily in that they are engineered to provide a tighter fit. Compression socks are essentially elastic garments that compress the limbs that they surround. Generally, such stockings are tighter at the extremities, becoming less restrictive as they proceed up the leg. The additional modest pressure exerted by the elastic material on the feet, ankles, and calves is intended to improve blood circulation. While there may have been a time that choosing or using compression socks may have been problematic, that is no longer the case. There is a wide variety of styles, grades, materials, and colors available.
What are compression stockings made of?
Compression stockings might be made from a variety of materials, ranging from natural materials such as merino wool to complex hybrids of manmade fiber. You will choose the stocking material that you find most comfortable and suited to their purpose and activity level. Many modern designs incorporate material(s) that promote the wicking of moisture (sweat) away from the body. There are different styles of compression socks (calf-high, thigh-high, etc), as well as different “grades” or gradients of tightness or elasticity. Clearly, if compression stockings are being worn based upon medical advice for a specific purpose or purposes, professional advice should also be sought with regard to the best style and grade of stocking to be worn.
What are the immediate physical consequences of wearing compression stockings?
The immediate physical consequences of wearing compression socks are to compress the limbs, and simultaneously to compress the veins within those limbs. The result is to accelerate the flow of blood within the veins.
What symptoms or conditions might prompt you to try compression socks informally, that is, without consulting a medical professional?
You may have a job, a hobby, or simply the inclination to spend a great deal of time sitting or standing, such that your legs are tired and stiff at the end of the day. You might find that your feet or lower legs are swelling. You may have read that compression stockings can improve athletic performance. Perhaps you heard or read that compression stockings will improve your circulation, or help to keep you from becoming dizzy when you stand abruptly. For these and other reasons you may desire to try compression stockings without medical advice.
Best to proceed with professional medical advice
Clearly, the ideal situation is to discuss the propriety of compression stockings with your medical professional before the fact, particularly if you are experiencing any new and/or unwelcome sensations or symptoms.
What medical conditions might cause your doctor to recommend compression stockings?
There are a wide variety of medical conditions or symptoms for which a doctor might recommend the use of compression stockings. The most common ailments or conditions are:
- thrombosis (DVT)
- chronic venous insufficiency (CVI)
- treatment of lower leg ulcers
- varicose veins
“Grades” of compression stockings
Ideally, the proper level (“grade”) of compression will be recommended by your medical professional. Compression grades are expressed numerically. The most common grades are:
- 15-20 mmHg, for over-the-counter products
- 20-30 mmHg, for medical class 1
- 30-40 mmHg, for medical class 2
- 40-50 mmHg, for medical class 3
“mmHg” stands for millimeters of mercury, which is a measurement of pressure; therefore, the higher the number, the greater the pressure exerted upon the limbs and veins. Of course, the greater the pressure exerted, the tighter the stockings will be. Over the counter products featuring the lowest level of compression are the common choice for everyday needs to combat mild fatigue and swelling or to enhance athletic performance.
What is “graduated compression”?
If a product is described as having “graduated compression”, it means that the compression (pressure) is greatest at the toe, foot, or ankle and decreases as you proceed up the leg. The pressure or compression is graduated by customizing the manufacturing (knitting) process for the stockings.
What are the Benefits of Wearing Compression Stockings?
You might expect compression stockings to:
- improve vein health and circulation
- reduce or eliminate swelling
- diminished likelihood of developing blood clots
- diminished discomfort and improved appearance of varicose veins
- speed post-surgical recovery
- recuperate more quickly from sports or training exertions
- leave you more refreshed after sitting or standing for prolonged spells
How to put on and wear compression socks
Keep in mind that compression stockings are engineered differently than “regular” socks as they serve a specific purpose. The pressure that they are designed to exert necessarily means that they must be put on differently and with more attention. The essential first step is to place your entire foot into its designated place in the stocking; if you start badly, you likely will end badly and be forced to start over. Once your foot is properly situated, gently but firmly pull up the stockings until they are in place as designed.
What makes a quality pair of compression socks?
- stocking style and compression grade match the condition/symptom you are addressing
- choice of material
- comfort overall
- proper size
- moisture-wicking properties of the material
Dos and Don’ts of compression stockings.
- carefully select the proper size
- put on first thing in the morning
- put on carefully, ideally with soft gloves
- properly care for and wash your stockings
- note that they will not last forever; elasticity will diminish
- note that different materials have different durability characteristics
Please Do Not:
- alter them
- use chlorine bleach
- twist or wring when washing
- roll them up when putting on or taking off
- wear them at night
- wear lotion or oil simultaneously
Compression stockings are an affordable, convenient method to address a wide range of health complaints and conditions. Compression socks are effectively used to remedy minor discomforts, diminish or treat more serious conditions, and enhance athletic performance and endurance. A variety of materials, styles, and designs are available, many of them fashionable. Shop for quality compression stockings today.