Compression socks are a well-known remedy for leg and foot swelling. Poor blood circulation in your legs can be caused by many factors, such as gravity. Your legs and feet are the furthest away from your heart, making it difficult for your body to return blood flow back up to the heart. Especially if you stand on your feet all day.
It is especially taxing on your veins to pump blood upwards, potentially leading to several conditions that can cause pain, fatigue, swelling, and other vein issues. That’s where compression socks come in. Compression socks can improve blood circulation and reduce leg fatigue in the most comfortable way possible.
Keep reading to learn more about how compression socks work, how they can help you, and the types of compression socks available.
How Do Compression Socks Work?
No rocket science here. Compression socks work by applying pressure to your legs and feet to improve blood flow and circulation. They provide a gradient of compression, getting stronger as they move down the leg to your feet. These are known as graduated compression socks. Compression levels can vary in different types of compression socks, measured in units of mmHg (millimetres of mercury). This measurement unit dictates the amount of pressure applied.
By applying pressure to the leg, compression socks reduce venous pressure within the limb. They are also designed to work with the natural pumping motion of your calves to allow optimal mobility while you walk or exercise. Compression socks go by many names such as orthopedic socks, compression hose, or medical compression stockings. Consult your doctor to learn which pair will work best for you.
How Can Compression Socks Help You?
Now that you know how compression socks work, what exactly can they do? Research shows that people of all ages and activity levels can wear compression socks to increase blood circulation and maximize endurance. Read on to learn more about what health conditions compression socks can treat.
Reduce Leg Fatigue And Pain
If you’ve ever experienced leg fatigue and pain throughout the day, you’re not alone. Many people who work long hours on their feet or sit at a desk may experience this sensation. Compression socks can combat leg fatigue and pain by increasing circulation, which increases the amount of oxygen in your legs to eliminate that heavy feeling.
Reduce Leg Fatigue And Pain
Swelling is one of the most common reasons to wear compression socks. That’s because they can improve your lymphatic circulation by applying pressure. Compression is the tightest around your feet and lower legs where swelling typically occurs. By applying pressure, compression socks force blood flow and the buildup of fluids to move upwards, reducing swelling.
Reduce Varicose Veins And Venous Ulcers
Varicose veins are not only painful, but they can cause you to feel insecure about the appearance of your legs. Varicose veins are enlarged veins close to the surface of your skin. They can become twisted and varicose from too much pressure.
This commonly occurs in the legs because walking and standing increase pressure in your lower body. Fortunately, compression socks are a great remedy that can reduce the buildup of blood in the veins, thereby relieving pressure and pain in your legs.
Research shows that venous ulcers can also easily be treated by compression socks. Venous ulcers are sores that take longer to heal due to poor vein blood flow. Both venous ulcers and varicose veins can lead to serious health complications if left untreated.
Help With Muscle Recovery
People who are healthy and active can also greatly benefit from the use of compression socks. Even if you don’t spend all day on your feet, research shows that compression socks can help boost muscle recovery post-workout. They also reduce the swelling and soreness that commonly occurs in the hours or days following a heavy workout.
Compression socks are designed to improve circulation and blood flow which in turn delivers the appropriate levels of oxygen and other essential nutrients to your legs and feet.
Prevent Blood Clots
Deep vein thrombosis (DVT), or blood clots, can be a very serious medical condition. Early signs of blood clots include leg swelling, cramping, and warmth. Fortunately, compression socks prevent the pooling of blood in your legs, thereby greatly reducing your risk of blood clots.
Who Can Benefit From Using Compression Socks?
Many people can benefit from the use of compression stockings. They aren’t exclusively used to treat health conditions. But who can benefit the most from wearing compression socks?
Prevent Blood Clots
If you’re currently pregnant, compression socks can help. During pregnancy, blood volume is increased, putting pregnant women at risk for impaired circulation, swelling, and varicose veins. We recommend wearing compression socks to reduce the risk of blood pooling and ease discomfort.
People With Medical Conditions
Anyone with a medical condition that increases their risk of blood clots or deep vein thrombosis should invest in a pair of compression socks. Even if you’re not currently at risk, family history, genetic disorders, injury, surgery, or certain medications can all increase your risk of blood clots. One reason being that extended bed rest can lead to blood pooling. Beyond treatment, compression socks are especially great for the symptom relief of many medical conditions.
If you’re an athlete looking to improve your performance, compression socks may be right for you. As mentioned, they provide post-workout relief and aid in the recovery of your muscles. Using compression socks both during and after training can help you perform your best by increasing blood circulation. They are proven to increase your endurance levels so you can perform at your maximum with less fatigue or discomfort.
If you’re planning to fly for a business trip or vacation, we highly recommend wearing compression socks during the flight. When you’re seated for extended periods of time, your circulation can be compromised, increasing your risk of developing blood clots. Swelling, fatigue, and pain are all common symptoms of long flights with low activity. Research suggests that wearing compression socks during travel can reduce your risk. We also recommend standing up and walking regularly during the flight, when permitted.
People Who Work On Their Feet
If your occupation requires you to stand or move on your feet for long periods of time, compression socks can help you. Occupational roles such as nurses can greatly benefit from wearing compression socks. They reduce the risk of swelling, fatigue, and discomfort when worn throughout the day.
Types Of Compression Socks
Getting the right amount of pressure from your compression socks is essential to achieving the right amount of blood circulation. For some people 15-20 mmHg — the standard over-the-counter pressure — is enough. However, some medical class stockings can range anywhere from 20 to 50 mmHg. We recommend consulting with your doctor to ensure you get the compression level that is right for you.
Graduated Compression Socks
Compression socks are designed to gradually decrease in strength as they move up your leg. That means the strongest amount of pressure is applied at your ankle and feet. These are known as graduated compression stockings. This type of sock is perfect for mobility and comfort, while providing the strength levels you may need.
Typically, graduated compression socks require a professional fitting to ensure you get the right amount of compression where you need it. This is dependent on your medical condition (or lack thereof). For example, some stockings end just below the knee to limit peripheral edema (leg swelling) which is due to fluid buildup. Others extend high up to the waist or upper thigh to prevent orthostatic hypotension.
Anti-embolism stockings reduce the risk of blood clots or deep vein thrombosis. They are specifically designed for people who aren’t mobile. Similar to graduated compression socks, anti-embolism stockings provide gradient compression throughout. The level of compression will depend on the strength (mmHg) of your stockings.
Non-Medical Support Hosiery
If you’re getting compression socks for a reason other than medical, non-medical support hosiery may be right for you. They don’t typically require a prescription and use less pressure than prescription compression stockings. You can expect a strength of 15 to 20 mmHg. These are ideal for everyday relief from leg fatigue and pain.
Types Of Compression Socks
Compression socks can improve circulation and prevent leg fatigue, swelling, and pain. They are a safe and affordable way to treat several medical conditions such as varicose veins, venous ulcers, and deep vein thrombosis. Compression socks can be used by anyone to relieve pain and improve vein health.
Most over-the-counter compression stockings provide a range of 15 to 20 mmHg standardized strength. If you’re not sure what level of strength is right for you, we suggest consulting with your doctor.