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A Guide to the Best Compression Stockings for Seniors

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Unlike standard socks, compression socks not only keep you comfortable, they also help you stay fit.

Compression socks are comfortable tights that improve circulation and prevent fluid buildup in the legs. They can also help older adults stay active and prevent health problems, such as swelling in the legs and even blood clots.

Compression socks are specifically designed to apply pressure to the lower leg, which can improve blood flow and reduce swelling.

What are compression socks?

Compression stockings gently squeeze the legs to move blood up and prevent fluid retention that can lead to swelling. Compression stockings can help prevent blood clots and are often used for varicose veins, spider veins, or people who have just had surgery. They can also help treat vascular conditions such as deep vein thrombosis (characterized by deep vein thrombosis), post-thrombotic syndrome (a complication of deep vein thrombosis), and chronic venous insufficiency (when blood circulates in the leg veins) ).

Compression stockings are really important, especially for people with swollen legs, chronic swelling of the legs can lead to weakness and reduced ability to walk as the legs become heavy. Additionally, it can cause leg injuries that are more difficult to heal, as swelling is the enemy of healing.

Moving fluids around the body can be a problem for people with heart failure or liver disease. Also, compression is generally not a good idea for people with active infections, and people with peripheral arterial disease should not use compression to restrict blood flow.

You can buy socks with relatively low compression without a prescription. However, higher levels of compression do require a prescription from your doctor, as certain contraindications may put you at risk. A prescription can help you find the right type of socks for your specific needs.

Types of compression stockings and their benefits

Generally, compression stockings are made of elastic fabric. But different styles are designed to meet different needs.

There are several types of compression stockings:

gradient elastic socks

These stockings are tighter at the bottom (ankle) to help push fluid up the leg. If the goal is to get rid of swelling and prevent it from recurring, Dr. Kalender-Rich says gradient compression stockings are your best bet. You will take them off every night before bed and put them on after your morning shower.

TED Hose

Thromboembolic deterrent (TED) tubes are commonly used after patients undergo surgery, including heart surgery. They are designed to push blood to the legs, towards the heart. The idea is to avoid blood clots or deep vein thrombosis. You usually take them off during your daily bath, but discuss with your doctor whether you should wear them while you sleep.

non-medical support socks

Tired, heavy and sore legs can often be relieved from non-medical support hoses. These socks offer less compression than other options, and the compression is consistent throughout the length of the sock. You can buy non-medical support socks without a prescription. They do not meet the medical and technical specifications of other compression stockings, but may be beneficial for those who are pregnant, those who fly long and frequently, or those who work standing up all day.

Features to Consider When Buying Compression Socks

Talk to your doctor to learn what specific elements you should look for in compression stockings so you can find the function that best suits your needs. Here are a few factors to keep in mind:

tightness

Compression stocking tension is measured in millimeters of mercury (mmHg). Generally speaking, pressures less than 20 mmHg are considered low pressures, while 20 to 30 mmHg are moderate pressures. Pressures above 30 mmHg are considered high pressures. Some studies have shown that low pressure is as effective as medium pressure for general swelling [1].

Low pressure can help with mild swelling and pain in the legs or feet, while moderate pressure can treat varicose veins and sports injuries. Older adults often find pressure in the 20 to 30 mmHg range helpful. High pressure is used for conditions such as severe edema, deep vein thrombosis, severe wounds and lymphedema, more than 30 mmHg usually requires a prescription, so consult your doctor.

length

You can find compression stockings in knee-high, thigh-high and full-length styles. Most people find knee socks easier to wear. The length that works best for you depends on your needs. In general, though, the most common leg conditions can benefit from knee-high compression stockings, which are often used to treat severe varicose veins and other conditions above the knee.

Comfortable fit

Compression stockings should feel secure, but not too tight.

You don't want them to feel like they're cutting into your leg, and more importantly, you don't want any crease or squeeze into the top of the leg. These put you at risk of injury.

Remember - the best compression socks are the ones you will wear.

If that means doing nothing, now is not the time to seek perfection. Sometimes, we have to choose stockings that may not be medically beneficial but actually wear out.

How much do compression socks cost?

You can find compression stockings at several price points. Expect to spend at least $10 per pair. Higher compression and more specialized stockings, such as those that include a unique grip or are made from fashionable fabrics, can cost over $100. You can find compression socks at online retailers, pharmacies, medical supply stores, and stores specializing in comfortable footwear.

Does insurance cover compression socks?

Generally, insurance will pay for compression stockings if they are part of a diagnosis and treatment plan. Be sure to check with your insurance provider about your coverage. You may be able to use Health Savings Account (HSA) or Flexible Spending Account (FSA) funds to pay for prescription compression stockings, so be sure to check with your provider.

How to use compression stockings

Compression socks can be trickier to put on and require more TLC than standard socks.

Here are some helpful tips from Vascular Cures, a nonprofit that promotes vascular disease resources:

Put on your socks first thing in the morning, when your legs are less swollen.

Gently pull the sock over your leg, smoothing the fabric as you go. Make sure the seam is straight and the heel is in the correct position.

Apply talcum powder to your legs to make the socks go more smoothly. If you use lotion, make sure it is dry before putting on the stockings.

Make sure the socks are smooth, especially behind the ankles or knees. If the socks look too long, don't fold them.

Tools like metal frames, so-called donners, and non-slip gloves can make putting on and taking off compression stockings easier.

You also need to be extra careful when you're not wearing socks. It's always important to get a skin check whenever you change your pressure suit, whether it's every day or every few days at your doctor's office.

She also recommends wearing an extra pair of compression socks so you can wash and wear one at the same time. Hand washing and air drying help prolong elasticity.

How to choose the best compression socks for you

You don't need fancy compression stockings to get the benefits. Low- and medium-pressure socks are available without a prescription. Stores that specialize in comfortable footwear are also great places to shop. However, if you need stockings with a pressure of 30mmHg or higher, you may need a prescription.

Start with your primary care physician, but seek out a phlebologist or vascular doctor if they're uncomfortable prescribing compression garments.