What are Compression Socks?

Imagine you just came back from the best vacation of your life. The only thing that bothered you was the long 6-hour flight. But now you're back home unpacking all your souvenirs.

Then you wake up the day after the vacation to a sore, hot spot on your calf. You touch it and feel a hard snaking lump. The next day, you notice it's getting longer heading toward your knee. What could it be?

This is a common scenario for travellers, especially if you suffer from varicose veins. When you sit for a long time, whether flying or driving, it can cause blood clots in your legs and other circulation problems.

So what are you supposed to do if you love travelling? The answer is compression stockings.

What are compression socks? Read more to find out.

What Are Compression Socks?

If you're thinking, ''How do compression socks work, and what are they?'' this should help explain more about them.

Compression socks are tight-fitting stockings that increase the blood circulation in your legs. They fit tightest at the ankle and gradually release compression as they get higher up your leg.

The stockings help to keep the blood in your veins flowing, especially when you're sitting for a long time. Gravity naturally pulls your blood to the lowest part of your body so your veins in your feet have to pump harder for the blood to reach your heart.

When you're sitting, your blood flow gets sluggish causing it to pool in one spot. This is when blood clots happen. 

Some medical conditions also cause poor circulation, which results in leg swelling, pain and difficulty walking. Compression socks can relieve these symptoms by improving your blood flow and preventing clotting.

Who Should Wear Compression Socks?

Anyone can wear compression socks to reduce tired legs. But people with medical problems or sedentary jobs benefit the most from wearing them.

Here is a list of the people benefiting from compression socks:

  • Those at risk of deep vein thrombosis (DVT)
  • People with diabetes
  • Varicose vein sufferers
  • People confined to bed
  • People with leg ulcers and swelling
  • Those who stand a lot at work
  • People with desk jobs
  • Pregnant women
  • Post-surgical treatment
  • Athletes
  • Frequent flyers, such as pilots and flight attendants

All of these people benefit from the gentle squeezing of compression socks. You can use them all day to get maximum relief from foot arch pain

Benefits of Compression Stockings

Compression socks benefits vary depending on why you need them. They can help save lives at risk of pulmonary embolisms or make your legs feel rejuvenated.

The following list explains many of the benefits of wearing compression stockings:

  • Decreases risk of DVT post-surgery
  • Less chance of getting blood clots from long flights
  • Prevention of clots if you have a family history of them
  • Eases aching and swelling from varicose veins
  • Prevents discomfort from leg ulcers
  • Reduce soreness of long-distance runners
  • Boosts blood circulation 

You might be wondering, ''What do compression socks do for someone without leg problems?''

Well, these socks make your legs feel better, especially if you've been on your feet all day. When you take the socks off, your legs will feel energized from the improved circulation.

How to Choose Compression Socks

When you decide to try compression stockings, make sure you know about the graduated compression rating at the ankle level. It depends on whether you need them for medical reasons or for extra support for everyday activities.

When you go to purchase compression stockings, you'll see three levels of compression measured by millimetres of mercury or mm Hg. 

  • Low - These have the pressure of less than 20 mm Hg or class 1
  • Medium - These have the pressure of 2010 mm Hg or class 2
  • High - These have a pressure greater than 30 mm Hg or class 3

The pressure depends on the elasticity and stiffness of the material, your leg measurements, and your movements and activities.

It's important that you only get stockings suitable for what you need. If your compression socks don't fit right, it can cause discomfort and leg ulcers.

Also, make sure you're not allergic to the materials used to make the socks. You could have a reaction of dermatitis and skin discolouration.

Before making your stocking choice, see your doctor. He or she can assess the pressure you need and measure your legs.

If you need non-medical support, such as flight socks or support stockings for tired, aching legs, you can find them at your local pharmacy without a prescription. When you wear them, they should feel snug. They shouldn't cause any pain.

If you have medical issues, your doctor will write a prescription for graduated pressure stockings.

What Are the Styles of Compression Socks?

You can find most compression socks and sleeves in flesh tone, white or black.

They're available in knee-high length, thigh length and in pantyhose style.

How to Put on Compression Socks?

When you first try to put on your compression socks, you might be surprised that they don't slide onto your foot like other socks. Follow this method to help you put on the socks:

  • Make sure your legs are dry.
  • Turn your socks inside out.
  • Push your toe in as far as it will go.
  • Pull the loose end over your foot and across your heel.
  • Hold the sides of the stocking between your thumb and index finger.
  • Pull the sock up slowly over your ankle and calf.
  • Pull it up the rest of the way.

Make sure you pull up your stockings if they roll down during the day. This causes extra pressure on your legs, which can cause circulation problems.

Final Tips for Best Results

It's also a good idea to have two pair on hand. You should wash them by hand and hang dry so the elastic lasts longer. Also, replace your socks every 3 to 6 months because the pressure decreases the more you wear them.

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