Compression stockings are used for a variety of reasons, one of which is to reduce fluid accumulation in the lower extremities; and to prevent the potential for phlebitis and thrombosis, which can eventually lead to the formation of life-threatening blood clots (deep vein thrombosis, or DVT). Many athletes of all abilities are even seen wearing compression sleeves and stockings, arguing that compression aids athletic performance.
What exactly are compression socks?
Compression socks are specially knitted knee socks that apply progressive compression to the ankle and leg to improve circulation in the leg. The most stress is on the ankles and less on the legs. The amount of pressure is expressed using the measurement term "mmHG" or millimeters of mercury.
Compression thigh highs, pantyhose and leggings work the same way, but the compression goes all the way to the thigh.
Why might you need them?
Our venous system is working hard to carry blood from our heart to our toes and back to our heart. Sometimes we move around enough that our leg muscles flex and act as pumps to help push blood back into our legs. Unfortunately, a lot of us don't move around as much as we should. Sitting or standing for long periods of time can cause blood to build up in our ankles. And, as we age, our circulatory system often needs more help and support. This is where compression stockings can give you extra circulation!
What are the possible medical benefits? What can compression stockings do for me?
There are many potential benefits to wearing compression stockings. Of course, our bodies are all different, however, many of our clients report:
Improves blood circulation, enhances leg vitality and reduces heaviness
- Less swelling of ankles and calves
- Improve spiders and varicose veins
- Improve athletic performance - whether walking, golfing or on the tennis court
- Reduce muscle soreness after physical activity
Causes and Effects of Swollen Ankle
The feeling of swollen ankles is often described as a burning or itching sensation, or even pain or tiredness in the legs. If your capillaries are leaking fluid and not being absorbed back into your blood, this can cause your ankle or foot to swell. However, if you can increase the pressure in and around the capillaries, fluid is more likely to be reabsorbed back into the lymphatic system and eliminated by the body naturally. When there is less fluid in the legs, the result is blood flow from the legs to the heart.
Compression stockings may also be worn after surgery to reduce the risk of blood clots, or during any period of time when someone is less active. If you have varicose or spider veins, or if you just had surgery, your doctor may actually prescribe compression stockings. Sigvaris and Jobst (makers of gradient compression stockings) have even noted the health benefits of traveling in them. Consider this: Regardless of your lifestyle, age or weight, sitting for 4 hours or more can increase your risk of DVT by 4 times. (Here are some ideas for breaking up your sitting time.)
How to Wear Compression Socks
Listen to your doctor's advice on how to wear compression stockings and for how long. Some general guidelines are as follows:
- Put on socks in the morning.
- Roll the stocking down and slide it over your foot up to the heel, then roll it up the rest of the leg.
- Make sure the stockings are wrinkle-free after placement, and smooth out any wrinkles that may have arisen while rolling.
- Knee-length stockings should be two fingers below the knee bend.
- Do not stop wearing compression stockings without first consulting your doctor.
Be sure to discuss wearing compression stockings with your doctor first to ensure proper use, and be sure to report any discomfort you may experience while wearing compression stockings.
Compression socks have a variety of advantages, ranging from light compression to strong compression. Compression stockings are graded in strength, meaning that the greatest compression occurs in and around the ankle, with less pressure up and around the calf. Stockings also come in a variety of interesting colors and styles. Trained professionals can provide you with the best size and the right size for you based on your specific needs.