Compression stockings are used to push the blood in the veins back up to heart against gravity. When you walk, your muscles are contracting around or near the veins and helping to push the blood upwards. Compression stockings mimic the pumping action of the muscles as you walk for individuals who have circulatory problems or are experiencing lack of movement from surgery or an injury. These types of conditions can result in blood accumulating in the veins of the lower legs or feet which leads to achiness, leg fatigue and leg swelling. And can also predispose you to a venous clot.
Compression stockings are used to create pressure on the muscles of the feet, ankles and legs using a specially designed weave of strong elastic. The compression is tightest around the ankles and feet and loosens up towards the legs. They will reduce discomfort and pain related to any underlying vein diseases and will help your legs feel lighter. Compression stockings are safe to wear and beneficial only if they are worn properly, smoothly against the legs, without any folds.
Compression stockings are beneficial for people with certain leg problems, such as:
Many factors can increase the risk of clots, like prolonged bed rest (such as after surgery), sitting for long periods (airplanes), use of birth control pills or hormone replacement therapy, pregnancy, family history of DVT, inflammatory bowel disease, certain genetic clotting disorders and post-thrombotic syndrome (PTS).
Those who should avoid compression stockings, are individuals with:
Oxygen delivered to arteries with damaged blood flow can worsen by wearing compression stockings. Circulation can be obstructed if worn by an individual with one of these conditions as they may not feel when a compression stocking is too tight. Certain skin conditions or infections may worsen with a compression stocking covering the area pressing on it. If you have a medical condition, talk with your health care provider before using compression stockings.
The practitioner will determine the right size and height by taking measurements of different parts of the leg with a tape measure. They will measure the circumference of the thigh, calf and ankle. As well as the distance from the knee or thigh to the floor. This will also depend on the length of the stocking.
Compression stockings come in three different levels of compression:
- Mild compression: 15 to 20 mmHg- this type is not covered by insurance and can be purchased in local stores. Size is determined by shoe size.
- Moderate compression: 20 to 30 mmHg- this type is considered medical grade and is covered by insurance with a prescription from a doctor. Measurements are taken by the practitioner selling the stockings for required size. In the morning is the best time to take the measurements.
- Firm compression: 30 to 40 mmHg- this type is also considered medical grade and is covered by insurance with a prescription from a doctor. Measurements are taken by the practitioner selling the stockings for required size. In the morning is the best time to take the measurements. Firm compression is used for more severe swelling, varicose veins, or after a deep vein thrombosis episode.
There are four major benefits that most people use compression stockings for other than being prescribed by a doctor, they are:
- Travel- they will help your legs have proper blood circulation because less movement during travel can lead to heavy legs, swollen feet and ankles and other leg pains.
- Running- helps the leg recover as quickly as possible. A snug fit knee-high sock is meant to increase circulation and reduce lactic acid buildup.
- CrossFit- strain is felt by the leg at sudden movements, stretches and pulls. They lessen the instances of cramps and help your leg recover faster from the leg strain.
- Pregnancy- they can prevent you from developing varicose veins. Pregnant women are also prone to deep vein thrombosis. There is blood volume especially during the third trimester. Pregnancy also causes hormonal changes that increase blood coagulation. Blood clotting is also a possibility.
How to put on compression stockings:
Since compression stockings are tight and elastic, you can use donning gloves or latex gloves to help the socks on so that it doesn’t catch on anything like jewelry or a fingernail.
- Put your hand inside the stocking and grab it at the heel to turn it inside out
- Roll it down toward the heel
- Put your foot inside the stocking
- Slowly massage the stocking up over your leg (do not roll or pull up the leg as it will create a tight band which will cut off circulation and can create sores)
It is important to put the compression stockings on in the morning before you lower your legs and get out of bed. This will keep the valves in the right position to aid healthy blood flow in your legs during the day. When you are sleeping the valves of the vein functions more efficiently. When you are sitting or standing the blood flow gets compromised and the valves get damaged from gravity. Your calves and ankles will normally feel fine in the morning and as the day goes on they get heavy and swollen. Compression stockings only help when they are worn daily and they will stretch out to fit the legs.
How to take care of compression stockings:
Compression stockings will need to be washed after each use. Hand wash only in cold water with a mild soap and then air dry. You can roll up the socks in a dry towel and pat out any excess water and then hang them up to dry. Do not wring them out to dry or use bleach, fabric softener or stain removers.