Compression socks or stockings are designed to keep blood from pooling in the legs and feet. These garments work by applying pressure at the ankles which is gradually reduced as they go up. The compression encourages blood flow up toward the heart instead of down to the legs and feet. Compression socks are recommended to help many different medical conditions. Some are mild and others could be life-threatening.
Sometimes, compression stockings are prescribed by a physician. Many types of compression socks can be purchased over-the-counter to meet different needs. There are three main types of compression socks, including:
- Graduated medical compression stockings – These stockings are usually prescribed by a doctor to treat chronic vein disease or edema. They are designed with most compression at the ankle which decreases gradually and are intended for ambulatory patients.
- Antiembolism stockings – These garments are designed for bedridden patients to reduce deep vein thrombosis risks. They also offer graduated compression.
- Non-medical support hosiery – These socks are designed with uniform support and are usually available over-the-counter. They provide relief for heavy aching legs.
Medical and non -medical compression socks may be used to treat some of the following conditions.
1- Varicose Veins
Varicose veins are enlarged veins that overfill with blood. They are often raised and look blue or purple. Whether you have varicose veins or think you are in danger of developing them, compression socks could help.
Compression stockings improve circulation to ease the symptoms of varicose veins. These stockings are preferred over elastic bandages because bandages have the potential to interrupt blood flow and make varicose veins worse. Patients often notice an immediate improvement of symptoms when wearing compression socks daily.
2- Leg Cramps
While there is no evidence that compression socks will shave minutes from your workout time, they might speed up your recovery. Some athletes wear compression socks to relieve jarring and stress to muscles. Even without performance improvement, comfort is often increased.
The real benefits of compression socks for athletes are more likely to develop after the workout is complete. Wearing the socks can decrease soreness and even help you recover faster. It is possible that increased circulation reduces muscle damage.
3- Deep Vein Thrombosis
Deep vein thrombosis (DVT) is the formation of a blood clot in the leg. The condition is painful and can be extremely dangerous in the event the clot travels to a lung (pulmonary embolism). Stockings can also be used to treat complications that occur after DVT, called post-thrombotic syndrome. Post-thrombotic syndrome can cause leg pain, swelling, skin changes, and even severe ulceration.
Compression stocking not only relieve discomfort from the pain, but they can also keep the condition from worsening. Compression stockings are often prescribed to prevent blood clots from forming after surgery when patients are bedridden. They are also used while traveling when people are forced to stay sitting for hours at a time.
Swelling of the legs and feet are common during pregnancy. Blood volume increases during pregnancy creating more work for your veins. Pregnancy is not easy on the body and leg discomfort, aches, and cramping are common.
Compression socks can help relieve the leg pain commonly associated with pregnancy. Since veins become more elastic during pregnancy, varicose veins are more likely to form. Compression socks can help prevent varicose veins and DVT during pregnancy.
Edema or leg swelling can be caused by different conditions that make the body retain fluids. While compression socks cannot help treat the underlying condition, they can help relieve painful symptoms. Edema occurs most commonly in the legs because of constant pressure from standing.
Compression stockings can ease the pain and heavy feeling associated with edema. These socks promote circulation in the legs to improve comfort while standing and performing daily activities.
While compression stockings are not designed to heal or treat serious medical conditions, they can eliminate painful and bothersome symptoms. Compression socks may help patients avoid injury and prevent serious complications of illnesses. If you suffer from leg pain, ask your doctor about the benefits of compression socks to relieve heaviness and pain.