What are Compression Socks?
Compression socks or stockings are made of a snug-fitting material that hugs or compresses your leg to reduce swelling and increase circulation.
Graduated compression stockings start out tighter at the ankle and become gradually looser as they move up your leg.
Today’s compression socks are a far cry from the ones your grandma used to wear. New materials allow a thinner weave to provide the same benefits the old, thick, flesh-colored socks did.
They come in socks, stockings, thigh-highs, and tights in a myriad colors and prints. In fact, compression tights even found their way onto the runway at Fashion Week in 2015.
How Compression Socks Benefit Leg Health
Compression socks benefit leg health by helping the blood in your legs return to your heart more effectively.
Since blood has to work hard against gravity to return to your heart, any little bit of impedance due to restricted circulation, vein weakness or valve problems, or even simple lack of movement can result in swelling in the feet, ankles, or legs due to blood pooling.
This swelling is what causes your legs to feel heavy, fatigued, and achy.
These special stockings apply consistent, gentle pressure to the tissues of the leg, compressing vein walls and helping blood return more efficiently to your heart. They can also help the lymph, a fluid that bathes your tissues, circulate through your legs to reduce swelling.
For people with varicose veins, compression socks can provide support to vein walls and increase circulation, reducing the effects of blood pooling in the legs that will further stretch and weaken veins.
Compression Therapy Benefits
Most people use compression socks to prevent varicose veins, but there are many other reasons to use them.
If you are in a profession that requires a lot of standing or sitting, compression socks can prevent sore legs at the end of the day.
People who fly often find compression stockings beneficial for keeping swelling at bay and can lower the risk of Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT), a condition where a blood clot forms in the deep veins of the legs. In fact, anyone with a history or risk of DVT should wear compression stockings as a preventative and therapeutic measure.
This type of physical therapy benefits runners and other athletes by improving performance through more efficient blood flow and protecting against injury and muscle soreness.
Compression Socks FAQ
Compression socks have changed a lot over the years and this often brings up a lot of questions. We’ve curated some of the most common to give you a good idea of what stocking therapy can do for you.
1. How Do You Wear Compression Socks?
Compression socks should fit snugly against your leg, without wrinkles or bunching. You should never roll the tops down because this can restrict, rather than enhance, your circulation.
If you’re wearing medically-prescribed compression socks, please follow your doctor’s orders. Otherwise, it’s best to put them on in the morning to reduce swelling over the span of the day.
2. What Size Do I Need?
There are various levels of pressure for compression socks, and these are measured in mmHg. The lower the number, the milder the compression.
Mild compression socks are fine for work and play, but you’ll want a pair with higher numbers if you’re looking to prevent DVT. The socks with the highest level of pressure, thrombo-embolic deterrent (TED) hose, are for those who have undergone surgery or are injured, and on bed rest.
Again, if you need these for medical reasons, please see your doctor, who can measure your leg circumference and prescribe the right fit for your condition.
For general reference, see below.
- Mild compression (8-15 mmHg) is good for pregnant women, people who are on their feet for long periods, and those experiencing minor swelling.
- Medium compression (15-20 mmHg) will provide relief and prevention of varicose veins, is good for those traveling long periods, and can help prevent DVT. This level is also right for those who have undergone vein treatments (like EVLT) to prevent the reappearance of varicosities.
- High compression (20-30 mmHg) is good for severe varicose veins, after vein treatment, to prevent severe edema, to prevent DVT, and to reduce symptoms of orthostatic hypotension.
- Extra-firm (30-40 mm Hg) is used for more severe venous insufficiency, edema,
- DVT risk, and orthostatic hypotension.
- Anything above 30-40 mmHg requires a prescription from your doctor.
3. Are Compression Socks Covered by Insurance?
While Medicare does not cover compression socks, other insurance companies may provide benefits, particularly if your socks have been prescribed by a physician and are over the 20 mmHg level.
4. Do I Need a Prescription for Compression Socks?
You do not need a prescription to purchase compression socks for home use, although you may be prescribed a pair by a physician for various reasons.
5. Who Should NOT Wear Compression Socks?
Compression socks are generally well-tolerated by most people, but there are some that should not wear them.
If you have any of the listed issues, or another medical issue, please see a doctor before using compression hosiery.
- Congestive heart failure
- Septic phlebitis of the leg
- Advanced arterial disease of the leg
- Skin infections
- Peripheral Neuropathy
- Allergies to Sock Fabric
6. Can I Wear Compression Socks if I Am Allergic to Latex?
Yes, but you must read the labels carefully. Most modern compression hose are made with spandex, but there are still a few brands that use latex in some of their socks.
7. Can I Double Up My Compression Socks?
Yes. If you need to go up in compression, you can layer one sock over another for added compression. Be careful not to wrinkle or bunch the bottom sock.
8. What Length Should I Buy?
Knee-length socks are fine to manage lower-leg venous insufficiency and swelling. If you have varicosities above the knee, it’s better to wear hose, tights, or thigh-highs.
9. My Stockings Have Run — Should I Be Concerned?
Some new styles of compression stockings are made from exceptionally sheer material. Like any delicate fabric, these sheer styles can snag and run.
A run in the stocking can affect the amount of compression, so you should purchase a new pair as soon as possible.
10. How Do I Wash My Compression Stockings?
Compression stockings should be washed after each wearing to remove dirt and oils and to bring back the elasticity.
It’s best to wash them by hand in a sink full of cold water. Add a bit of mild detergent and gentle squeeze to work through the garment. Never pull or stretch your compression socks.
Then, let them soak for five to ten minutes, rinse thoroughly, then squeeze gently or roll in a towel to remove most of the water.
When you’re done, you can lay them flat to dry completely or hang to dry. Never place them near heat, as this can affect the elasticity.
11. How Do I Put on My Compression Stockings?
Compression stockings are tight and can be difficult to put on. It’s important that you put them on before you get out of bed in the morning, to minimize swelling in your legs.
Fold down the top half of the stocking over the foot portion. Insert your foot into the toe area and gently pull the foot portion up over the heel.
Then, begin pulling the folded-over portion upward toward your knee, smoothing as you go. Make sure there are no bumps or wrinkles in the stocking.
After Compression Stockings: Vein Treatment
If you’ve have varicose veins and are considering compression therapy for legs, you should look into other therapies that can help alleviate associated issues.
A great way to get relief from varicose veins is through a simple procedure called endovenous laser treatment or EVLT. With this therapy, a highly-focused beam of light from a medical-grade laser is used to help seal damaged vein walls, effectively closing off the vein.
Compression stockings are required to be worn after an EVLT procedure to help with the shrinking of the ablated veins, to provide underlying support, and to control pain.
They also help minimize the movement of surrounding fat, which helps control inflammation. Instructions vary by physician, but compression stockings are normally worn around the clock for the first few days, then during the day for the next three to eight weeks. Check with your insurance company and your doctor to determine the appropriate compression stocking schedule for you.
Why suffer from varicose veins and sore, achy legs? Schedule an appointment now for an EVLT consultation to see if this simple, safe solution is right for you.
Contact us at 888-768-3467 to speak with one of representatives about insurance, treatment costs, or to set up an appointment. If you don’t feel like calling, click the button below to request an appointment online.