Compression Stockings: A Pocket Guide

Health

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What are compression stockings?

Compression stockings are elastic garments, usually made of thin fibers, that are worn to apply pressure to your legs and ankles, promoting blood flow back to your heart. This aims to prevent blood clots in the ankles and legs. It can also help reduce pain and swelling.

Compression stockings – also called pressure socks – can either be worn at knee-level or a thigh-level measurement. Some are made to reach up to the waist called “tights” while some are made with no foot cover called “sleeves”.

Compression stockings have features for personal preferences, such as color, made and quality, the strength of compression, and a choice of open or closed-toe.

How do compression stockings work?

Compression stockings work by putting significant pressure on the legs, ankles, and feet. This forces the blood in the surface veins and arteries of those areas to circulate through narrower channels. This increases the pressure in the arteries, resulting in more blood flow to the heart and less blood to pool in the legs and feet.

What are the types of compression stockings?

There are three primary types of compression stockings. They are graduated compression stockings, anti-embolism stockings, and nonmedical stockings.

Graduated (also called gradient or graded) compression stockings apply stronger pressure at the bottom that gradually decreases towards the top. They’re designed for mobility and to meet certain specifications. They require a prescription and professional fitting.

Anti-embolism stockings are similar to graduated compression stockings as they also have gradient application of pressure. However, they have different amounts of pressure exerted as they are designed for those who are not mobile.

Non-medical compression stockings have an equal distribution of compression from top to bottom. They typically do not require a prescription. They also apply lesser pressure.

What are the benefits of using compression stockings?

The benefits of wearing compression stockings can be categorized into three facets: improvement, prevention, reduction/relief.

Improve blood circulation in the legs, ankles, and feet.

Improve the flow of the fluid (lymph) in the legs.

Prevent blood from pooling in your legs.

Prevent the development of some vascular disorders such as venous ulcers (wounds due to improper functioning of venous valves), deep vein thrombosis (DVT), lymphedema, peripheral venous disease, and varicose veins.

Reduce lightheadedness or unsteadiness when you suddenly stand.

Reduce leg and foot swelling.

Relieve pain.

Who uses compression stockings?

People who use compression stockings can be generalized into two: medical and non-medical users. They are more likely both after the same set of benefits.

Medical users are those who use compression stockings to aid a certain medical situation. They include people at risk of blood clot on the legs, people who just had surgery that need long bed rest, people who has injury that render them to be less active, elderlies who experience pain and weakness on the legs and ankles, pregnant women, people on hormone replacement therapy, and people with existing vascular condition.

Non-medical users are those who use compression stockings other than medical requirements like occupational, exercise, travel, athletic, and other purposes. This includes people who stand or sit for long durations, travel for long hours, work out extensively, athletes who want to prevent injury and improve performance, and the like.

Where can I buy compression stockings?

Compression stockings can be bought online, in pharmacies, and at medical supply stores. People who purchase compression stockings for medical purposes are highly advised to be fitted by a trained professional because of the specific requirements of the prescription based on their medical condition. Other users can refer from specific brands, recommendations, and reviews to choose the best compression stockings to buy i.e. best compression stockings for women reviews, best compression stockings recommended by doctors.

How do you determine the right pressure and fit?

The amount of pressure is measured in millimeters of mercury (mmHg). The general rule indicates the lightest compression of less than 15 mmHg. This is for healthy people for general purposes. Moderate compression is placed from 15 mmHg to 20 mmHg. This is typically used to prevent DVT and relieve pain. Higher compression, often coined as “medical grade”, starts from 20 mmHg to 40 mmHg or higher.

Proper fitting requires accurate measurement of the calf, ankle, and thigh circumference as well as limb length. Too tight or too loose will cause too much restriction or no pressure applied. It can also result in a multitude of side effects and new problems that can worsen up the current condition.

Final words?

People with medical concerns should seek advice from the medical doctor if wearing a compression stocking will benefit them. People who want to use them for other purposes should still be careful in choosing the compression stocking with the right specifications.

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