Compression socks are made from a snug-fitting, stretchy material that’s specially designed to apply pressure to the lower legs. This helps to improve blood flow and reduce swelling and discomfort.
Compression socks and stockings are most-commonly prescribed as the first treatment for varicose veins. Compression socks may also be recommended for other conditions that result in poor blood flow to the legs, such as lymphoedema and deep vein thrombosis (DVT).
What Are Varicose Veins?
Varicose veins are enlarged and swollen veins that typically occur on the legs and feet. They develop when the tiny valves inside the veins are damaged. If these valves don’t work properly, blood can flow backward and collect in the vein, causing it to swell.
Varicose veins typically appear dark purple or blue in color. Other signs can include muscle cramps and burning in the affected leg, as well as swollen feet and ankles. For most people, symptoms worsen during warm weather.
If your varicose veins are causing you discomfort and pain, you may require treatment. Initially, it’s likely that your treating physician will recommend wearing compression stockings and increasing regular physical activity. For most people, compression socks help to reduce the appearance and symptoms associated with the condition.
If the veins continue to cause discomfort and/or complications, your doctor may prescribe treatment with sclerotherapy, endothermal ablation, or vein ligation/stripping.
How Do Compression Stockings Work?
Compression stockings fit tightly around the ankles, legs, and thighs, and are often tightest around the ankle. These stockings create pressure which pushes fluid up the leg, allowing for easier and improved blood flow from the leg to the heart.
When Should I Wear Compression Stockings?
Most people are recommended to wear compression stockings or socks continuously during the day, taking them off only before bedtime. Depending on your condition, you may need to wear them on one or both legs.
It is advised to put the stockings on first thing in the morning, before standing up. Movement may cause swelling, making it harder to pull the stockings on.
How to Put on Compression Socks
The higher the level of compression, the more difficult stockings are to put on. If you are not used to it, the tight compression can be a bit of a challenge. If you experience difficulties getting your stockings on, try the following tips:
Compression stockings fit very tightly, so avoid bunching them as you would with regular socks. Instead, grab the toe of the sock from the inside and turn the sock inside out until you reach the heel. Then slide your foot in.
Compression Socks Care
Wash your compression stockings and socks daily to help the material return to its original shape. To prevent the elastic fibers from becoming damaged, wash the stockings by hand or in a mesh bag (as you would delicates).
Make sure to buy two or three extra pairs so you always have a clean pair when one is being washed.
It is recommended to replace your compression socks and stockings every 3 to 6 months. You should also replace your stockings if they become torn, start to wrinkle, or begin sliding down during the day.
Which Type of Compression Stockings Should I Use?
Compression stockings for varicose veins are available in a variety of lengths, sizes, and levels of tightness. To ensure AN optimal fit and feel, you will need to measure the circumference of your ankle, calf, and thigh, as well as the length of your upper and lower leg. To do so, you can use our guide on how to measure for compression stockings and socks, or consult your doctor or nurse.
It is essential to find compression socks with the right amount of pressure for your condition. Compression is measured in millimeters of Mercury (mmHg). The mmHg ranges from 8-15 mmHg to 30-40 mmHg.
8 mmHg to 20 mmHg variations provide light-to-moderate compression and can be used for a wide variety of reasons (e.g. working out, pregnancy). Compression over 20 mmHg, however, should be recommended and regularly monitored by a medical professional.
For people with varicose veins, 15 mmHg to 20 mmHg is usually an excellent compression level for managing mild discomfort. If the condition is more severe, your physician may prescribe a higher compression level.
Compression Socks Styles and Accessories
Knee High and Thigh High Compression Socks
Knee high compression socks are made in a variety of different materials, such as cotton and sheer nylon material. Knee-high socks are generally easier and more comfortable to wear than other types of compression legwear.
Thigh high compression socks are typically used when full-leg compression is required.
If you wear compression stockings for medical reasons, the height of the stockings should be determined by a doctor.
Open Toe Compression Socks
Open toe compression socks and stockings are an ideal choice for those who feel tightness in their toes when wearing closed-toe stockings. This style is also preferred by people who need more breathability due to arthritic toes or fungal infections.
With compression stockings and socks, the pressure begins in the ankle and gradually lessens as it goes up the leg. Therefore, you can opt for an open-toe style without worrying about losing compression.
Stocking Donners and Doffers
If you have trouble putting your compression socks on, a donner can make the process easier. Stocking donners – such as the Sigvaris Doff N Donner and Jobst Stocking Donner – are specially designed to help you get the compression stockings over the foot.
Stocking doffers are devices meant to help you get the stockings off your leg.
Stocking donners and doffers are ideal for users who require high compression stockings, as well as for older adults and people with physical limitations due to conditions like arthritis.
Risks for Compression Stocking Users
Generally speaking, compression socks are safe and do not result in serious complications, providing they are the right fit. It is still sensible, however, to examine your legs daily for any skin changes such as redness and skin irritation. If you notice any changes in your skin, contact your doctor as this can be a sign that your stockings do not fit correctly or that you have an infection.
People with massive leg swellings, open wounds, and skin infections should not use compression stockings. They are also not recommended to people diagnosed with peripheral artery disease (PAD), peripheral neuropathy, or congestive heart failure.
If you have any medical conditions, consult your treating physician or nurse before using compression stockings.
Our Top Picks for Compression Stockings
Sigvaris Select Comfort - Available in 20-30 mmHg and 30-40 mmHg, these stockings, socks, and pantyhose help to relieve swollen and tired legs on a daily basis.
Jobst Ultrasheer - These compression socks for women are lightweight, soft, and stylish. They can be purchased in all levels of compression, as well as in pantyhose and maternity styles.
Jobst Relief - Available in a variety of selections, these compression socks and stockings help conceal varicose veins, scars, and blemishes.
Finding the Best Compression Stockings
Good quality compression stockings can significantly improve the lives of people with varicose veins. Though they may be hard to put on and it may take a while to get used to wearing them every day, compression socks can keep your problem from worsening and help you avoid surgery.
Express Medical Supply carries a great variety of compression socks and stockings that are comfortable, durable, and fashionable. Check out our range of compression stockings and socks to find the style that best matches you and your lifestyle!
Discover more useful tips, as well as product reviews in our compression stockings and socks blog section.