Compression stockings or compression stockings are tight, knee-length socks that help your blood flow. They squeeze your legs gently, and the blood easily returns to your heart as it works against gravity. If you have certain medical conditions, your doctor may recommend that you wear compression stockings to help your circulation. Compression stockings and stockings are specially designed for compression therapy. They apply gentle pressure to your legs and ankles, promoting blood flow from your legs to your heart.
Compression stockings can also reduce pain and swelling in the ankles and legs.
Read on to learn about the health benefits of compression stockings, how they work, the different types of socks, and side effects to watch out for.
Compression socks: what are they and who needs them?
The benefits of compression socks
Your doctor may prescribe compression stockings to:
Improve leg circulation
- support veins
- prevent blood from pooling in the veins of the legs
- Reduce leg swelling
- Reduces orthostatic hypotension, which causes dizziness or instability when standing
- Help prevent venous ulcers
- Prevents deep vein thrombosis in the legs
- Helps relieve pain from varicose veins
- reverse venous hypertension
- Improve lymphatic drainage
How do compression socks work?
Compression stockings put pressure on your legs and ankles, which can:
Reduces the diameter of major veins by increasing the volume and velocity of blood flow
- Helps blood flow to the heart
- Helps prevent backflow of blood down the foot or laterally into the superficial veins
when you may need compression socks
Deep vein thrombosis. DVT occurs when a blood clot develops in your leg. The clot can cause pain or swelling, and it can loosen and move into your lungs, causing a dangerous condition that requires immediate treatment.
Varicose veins. When you have varicose veins, your vein valves don't work properly, so it's harder for your blood to recirculate back to your heart.
diabetes. If you have diabetes, your feet and ankles are more likely to swell, which increases your risk of infection.
Pregnant. When you're pregnant, you have more fluid in your body, which can cause swelling. Also, the hormonal changes you experience during pregnancy can increase your risk of DVT.
recovery from surgery. After surgery, when you have difficulty moving around, you may be at higher risk for circulation problems, swelling, or DVT.
In these cases, your doctor may recommend that you wear compression stockings to reduce your risk of complications. It's a good idea to wear your compression socks all the time unless you're in the shower. You can wear other socks and shoes over it if desired.
You may also choose to wear compression socks if you stand for long periods of time, work as a pilot or flight attendant, or spend a lot of time flying. Some athletes also wear compression socks to help their blood flow. In these cases, you may need to wear compression socks while working, flying, or exercising. Unlike people with medical conditions, you may not need to wear them at other times.
Types of compression stockings
The three main types of compression stockings are:
- Anti-embolism socks
- non-medical support socks
- gradient compression socks
In graduated compression stockings, the compression is strongest at the ankle and tapers off toward the top. They are designed for mobility and meet medical specifications for length and strength.
Gradient compression stockings usually require a professional try-on.
Stockings that end just below the knee help limit peripheral edema, or swelling of the lower leg due to fluid buildup.
Stockings that extend to the thighs or waist help reduce blood pooling in the legs and help prevent orthostatic hypotension.
Some vendors offer features based on personal preference, such as color, and the choice of open or closed toes.
Antithrombotic stockings reduce the likelihood of deep vein thrombosis.
Like gradient stockings, they offer gradient compression. However, the compression levels are different. Anti-embolic stockings are designed for people with reduced mobility.
non-medical support socks
Non-medical support socks usually do not require a prescription. They include elastic support hoses and flight socks as potential means of relieving tired and sore legs.
These provide even compression with less pressure than prescription compression stockings.
You can find non-medical compression stockings at most drugstores or online.
How to choose compression socks
There are different types of compression stockings or stockings to consider. Most are knee-high, but you can also wear compression socks that go up to the thigh or compression tights that go up to the waist. Another option is a compression sleeve, which covers your legs but not your feet. Compression sleeves for the arms are also available - athletes and people with lymphedema may need them.
The amount of pressure in compression stockings can vary. If you work standing up or fly a lot, lower compression levels may be preferred. Your doctor may recommend higher stress levels to combat medical conditions, especially after surgery or if you're bedridden.
If your doctor prescribes compression stockings, you will get the recommended size and compression rating. Insurance may cover the cost of prescription compression stockings. If you buy them over the counter, you may need to seek advice from your doctor. You want socks that feel comfortable but don't hurt.