Compression socks have become a common type of DIY health support, but how do you know if you should wear them? Keep reading to learn more about this easy form of compression therapy and its benefits.
7. What Are Compression Socks?
Usually made of knit fabric like nylon and spandex, compression socks are stretchy and meant to be tight-fitting around the feet, ankles, and calves. Their purpose is to squeeze (compress) this area to combat conditions like swelling and inflammation from poor blood flow.
Compression socks come in a variety of styles and strengths. Often a doctor will prescribe them, but low-level compression socks are widely available without a prescription from many clothing retailers and medical supply stores.
Compression sleeves are alternatives to compression socks that can be worn on the legs but aren’t made to cover the feet.
6. Support for Venous Insufficiency and Other Conditions
Swelling in the legs and feet could be caused by pooling blood. This can happen when leg veins aren’t sufficiently pumping blood to the heart, a condition referred to as venous insufficiency. The squeezing action of compression socks can help veins get that pooled blood moving again.
Compression could also bring some relief to people with varicose veins, deep vein thrombosis (a blood clot in deep veins, often in the legs), and to people with diabetes suffering from poor blood circulation. Diabetes nerve damage could also benefit from compression sock stimulation.
5. Post-Surgery Compression
It’s common for doctors to recommend compression socks after surgery to prevent the formation of blood clots. You would likely wear compression garments in the hospital post-surgery, as well as during recovery at home.
The risk of blood clots after surgery in the hips, abdomen, legs, and knees can be higher than with other procedures. You could also be at higher risk of blood clots if your surgery requires more than 90 minutes of general anesthesia. People who will be sedentary during surgery recovery also benefit from the aid of compression socks for blood clot prevention.
4. Support for Athletes
Compression socks are widely used by athletes during and after physical activity. Increased blood flow through the veins and more oxygen flow to the muscles are just two ways compression therapy supports an athlete’s strength and endurance.
Tendons can require extra protection for certain athletes when their physical activity involves high-cardio work. Runners and cyclists can easily overuse their tendons, too. For those athletes with tendon pain and inflammation, compression socks can decrease these symptoms while supporting tendons as they heal.
3. Compression Socks for Work and Travel
Have you ever taken a long flight that resulted in swollen feet? Or had a long workday of standing that caused your ankles to puff up twice their size? The lack of stretching and varied activity can take its toll on your veins, causing blood to pool in your feet and ankles. Wearing compression socks can help keep your circulation flowing during work and travel.
You may need to experiment with the level of compression before finding socks that promote circulation but don’t make you uncomfortable all day.
2. Do Pregnant Women Need Them?
Pregnancy hormones can make a woman feel many physical and emotional changes. They can also cause sluggish blood flow through the legs and feet, causing swollen legs, ankles, and feet. Compression socks help pregnant women avoid blood clots, plus keep blood flow strong for both her and her growing baby.
The uterus can also cause a need for compression socks during pregnancy. As the uterus grows, it presses into more veins. Compression on the legs and feet can help those veins keep blood moving efficiently until the baby is born.
1. Choosing the Right Compression Socks for You
Compression socks come in different lengths, styles, and tightness levels. In general, knee-high socks are most often recommended for full compression coverage.
According to Legsmart, the most commonly used compression levels include “15-20 mmHg (over the counter), 20-30 mmHg (medical class 1), 30-40 mmHg (medical class 2) and 40-50 mmHg (medical class 3).” The numbers for each level indicate the amount of compression that falls within this range of “millimeters of mercury” or mmHg (a pressure measurement).
Ask your doctor which compression sock levels are best to support your specific conditions and healing goals.