In today’s world, we are busy, but not necessarily active, and many of us spend hours on or off our feet. Sitting for hours without moving can block the healthy movement of blood to the heart, leading to swollen legs and feet. And while standing up can help, standing all day is not ideal either, as the constant strain on the joints can also lead to swelling and fatigue.
Sitting at work or at home is just one way to put your circulation at risk. Obesity, pregnancy, or limited mobility after surgery can lead to more serious conditions such as Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT) or varicose veins – which can prevent blood flow to the heart. Any condition that interferes with your blood’s ability to move freely in your body can lead to life threatening circumstances. Fortunately, there are some simple and affordable ways to prevent this from happening, one of which is wearing compression socks.
What are compression socks?
Compression socks and hosiery are designed to stimulate the flow of blood from your lower extremities up to your heart. They are made from a blend of fibers that offer a snug and stretchy fit in the right parts of your legs. When your circulation is poor, the blood in your veins need help – compression socks fit snugly around the ankles and loosen as they go further up to help work against the force of gravity and help move that blood up the veins.
You could benefit from compression socks if:
• Your legs are regularly swollen, fatigued or in pain
• You will be immobile for a long period, such as after surgery
• Your family has a history of blood clots, DVT or varicose veins
• You have varicose veins
Pregnant women, while carrying extra weight and possibly being a bit more sedentary can get great relief for their legs and feet, and prevent conditions that challenge the pregnancy. If you’re about to take or work on a long flight, compression socks can make sure your blood keeps pumping smoothly while you’re in the air.
Diabetics, who are at higher risk of developing DVT, peripheral edema (swelling) and foot ulcers, can find the socks particularly beneficial because of their ability to lessen pressure and nerve irritation, and minimize the rubbing and irritation caused by regular hosiery.
While compression socks can be helpful in many circumstances, not everyone should use them. If you have chronic skin or heart conditions, consult your physician about the use of compression socks.
Your doctor can tell you if compression socks are a good choice for you; depending on your circumstances, they may prescribe them or recommend you pick some up at your pharmacy.
Which compression socks are right for me?
To get the full benefit of wearing them, you should make sure you choose the right socks for your leg size and physical condition. Compression socks are rated according to their compression levels, which assign them to the appropriate level of need. The measurement is in Millimeters of Mercury (mmHg), and increases from lower to higher level compression. Here’s how it breaks down:
- For mildly aching and tired legs
- Support for standing or sitting for long periods
- When just a little support is needed
- Daily relief from for aching and slight swelling
- Extra support during travel
- Can prevent circulation problems during pregnancy
- Most commonly prescribed compression level
- Used to help chronically painful, heavily fatigued legs
- For treatment of varicose veins
- Relief from edema (swelling)
- Relief from moderate and severe edema and lymphedema
- Helps prevent and relieve more serious cases of varicose veins
- Used in the treatment of deep vein thrombosis (DVT)
- Used after bone fractures and orthopedic surgeries
- Treatment for chronic venous insufficiency
- Used for severe cases of DVT
Lower level socks (15-20mmHg) can be purchased over the counter, but higher levels (20-50mmHg) will need to be prescribed by a doctor. You should also be professionally measured and fitted for higher level socks, to ensure they will help your condition. If you want to buy your own, here are a few tips for self-measurement:
1. Measure when swelling is at a minimum, usually first thing in the morning.
2. Measure your ankle circumference at the narrowest part of your ankle
3. Measure your calf length, from where the heel touches the floor to the back of your knee
4. Measure calf circumference at the fullest part of your calf
The design of compression socks makes them not as easy to slip on as regular socks. Here are a few things to remember:
1. Put your socks on in the morning, when swelling is at a minimum
2. Use baby powder or cornstarch to help make the glide of the sock easier
3. Scrunch the sock down to the toes
4. Cover your toes and the ball or your foot, followed by the ankle, and then slowly allow the looser part of the sock to rise up your calf to the knee
If you are buying your own compression socks, choose an expert in specialized footwear like flowfeet.com that can give you the information, tools and tips to make compression socks a great addition to your life.
**It is advisable to consult a health-care professional such as a doctor or podiatrist before taking action based on any information found on our website. Our goal is to provide information and educate others on a number of issues relating to foot health, not give medical instruction.