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Long Flight Ahead? Pack Your Support Stockings!

When traveling overseas (or any flight lasting more than eight hours), being prepared is key. We all know to bring a good book or gadgets to keep us entertained, but what about support stockings? A recent article in The Wall Street Journal warns of a potentially life-threatening condition called Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT), also known as blood clots, in travelers on long flights. The connection between blood clots and travel occurs when the traveler remains immobile for long periods of time. “Anytime you are immobile, you have the potential for blood to sit there and clot,” says Susan Scherer, a Physical Therapist and Associate Professor of Physical Therapy at Regis University in Denver, CO.  According to new guidelines published by The American College of Chest Physicians, travelers that are already at risk for DVT should take extra precautions by always wearing support stockings on any flight over eight hours. Risk factors for DVT include: severe obesity, advanced age, pregnancy, oral contraceptives, and recent surgery/trauma.

Preventing blood clots during travel is just one of the many conditions that support stockings are used for. They come in a variety of levels of compression, ranging from light support to heavy support. The stockings use gradient pressure (tighter at the ankle where it's needed most) to encourage blood flow back to the heart instead of pooling near the ankles and feet. With today's support stockings, there are so many stylish options that range from athletic to dressy. With so many options like crew socks and pantyhose, finding the right pair should be an easy task.  Online retailers offer a great selection of stockings from a variety of top brands, such as Jobst, Juzo, Sigvaris, Mediven and more. Please note that stockings are not recommended for smokers, diabetics or those with decreased blood supply to the legs. But remember, it's always a good idea to talk to your doctor about which compression and style is best for you.

Light Compression (8mmHg - 20mmHg): These light compression stockings are generally considered safe for most people.

  • Tired or Aching Legs - Support Stockings are great for treating those with tired, achy legs. Anyone who spends a lot of time on their feet knows the feeling of tired, aching legs. A light compression stocking can help battle gravity and make your legs refreshed at the end of a long day.
  • Pregnancy -  A common complaint during pregnancy is swelling of the lower leg and/or feet. A light compression support stocking will help with fluid retention by encouraging blood flow and dissipating the retained fluid.
  • Minor foot or ankle swelling - Also known as edema, can be helped by a light compression stocking.

Medium Compression (20mmHg - 40mmHg): Although no prescription is required, it is a good idea to check with your doctor before using anything above 20mmHg compression. Conditions that can benefit from a stronger compression are:

  • Varicose Veins - Although support stockings will not treat varicose veins, they will help compress the expanded veins which will alieviate the swelling and discomfort by encouraging the blood to flow in the proper direction.
  • Moderate Edema - Edema is fluid retention and can be from a wide range of causes, such as a high sodium diet, certain medications, or weather - just to name a few. Support stockings will help dissipate extra fluids and encourage healthy blood flow.
  • Post-Sclerotherapy - Sclerotherapy is a treatment for varicose veins and the use of support stockings post-procedure is highly recommended.
  • Post-Surgery - Certains surgeries benefit from the use of support stockings, based on your doctor's recommendations.

Heavy Compression (40mmHg and higher): These support stockings are used to treat more serious conditions and should only be used under the advice of your doctor. They are helpful in the treatment of:

  • Severe Varicose Veins - A heavier support stocking may be useful in treating more severe cases of varicosities.
  • Severe Edema - When A light or medium compression support stocking isn't enough to dissipate retained fluids in the lower limbs.
  • Lymphatic Edema - Support stockings can ease the swelling of tissues ( edema ) due to lymphatic obstruction.
  • Orthostataic Hypotension - Orthostatic Hypotension occurs from a reduction of blood pressure within three minutes of standing. Sometimes support stockings helpful in treating this condition.

These are just a few examples of conditions that use support stockings as part of their treatment.  Whether you're on a plane, at work or have other conditions that require support stockings - they are an inexpensive fix to many different health concerns. As always, your doctor is the best place to start when deciding which is best for you.

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