Benefits of Wearing Compression Socks
Are you one of the millions of Americans suffering from varicose veins? If so, you might be familiar with life-altering symptoms like pain, swelling, and heaviness in the legs. The presence of varicose veins is a sign of underlying vein disease, or venous insufficiency. When left untreated, vein disease can lead to serious health conditions like blood clots and venous ulcers.
At USA Vein Clinics, we want to help reduce your risks and alleviate your symptoms. While we believe that future vein treatment might improve your symptoms, we also understand that you need relief right now.
That’s where the benefits of compression socks come in. Below, you’ll discover everything you need to know about how these garments can help you.
What Are Compression Socks?
Compression socks, sometimes known as compression stockings, are garments designed to compress your leg. The resulting compression can help reduce pain and swelling associated with varicose veins, while also increasing your circulation. They are generally very snug in the ankle area and looser higher up on the leg.
If you’re imagining thick, brown nylons like your Grandma used to wear, don’t worry. Improved materials offer a thinner, more stylish look with all the same benefits. They also now come in different styles –– short, long, thigh-highs, and tights. You can also choose from an array of colors and prints.
What Do Compression Socks Do?
The first thing to understand is that the blood in your legs has to work against gravity to return to your heart. Varicose veins form when leg veins malfunction and are unable to effectively return this blood to the heart –– instead, blood pools in the legs, ankles, and feet.
Compression socks can benefit your leg health by applying gentle, constant pressure to your leg tissues. This compresses the vein walls and helps the blood in these areas return more easily to the heart. With improved circulation, blood will stop pooling in your legs. This will reduce any associated swelling, heaviness, fatigue, and achiness.
When Should I Wear Compression Socks?
If you are at risk for developing varicose veins, you might want to ask your doctor about wearing compression socks. You may be at increased risk for the effects of vein disease if you:
- Have a family history
- Are female
- Are overweight or obese
- Are over the age of 60
- Are pregnant
- Don’t get enough physical activity
- Stand or sit for long periods
While many people wear compression socks for varicose vein prevention, there are other reasons to use them. For example, they can help prevent sore legs when you stand a lot during the day. Compression socks can reduce leg swelling and your risk of developing Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT) during air travel. Some athletes, particularly runners, wear these garments to improve performance, protect against injury, and reduce muscle soreness.
Benefits of Compression Socks and How to Wear Them
Compression socks are an easy and affordable way to help promote good circulation and prevent any complications with vein disease symptoms. However, it’s important to use the compression socks properly to prevent any issues. Below, we’ve gathered our most frequently asked questions (FAQs), along with helpful answers by our vein specialists.
1. How Do I Wear Compression Socks?
Finding the best fit for your compression socks is essential. They should be snug against your ankle and leg and free from any wrinkles or bunching. Don’t roll down the tops, since this can restrict circulation and defeat the purpose of wearing them.
If your doctor has prescribed compression therapy for you, follow their orders on how long to wear compression socks. Many individuals put them on first thing in the morning and wear them throughout the day.
2. What Size Compression Socks Should I Get?
Compression socks are measured in levels of pressure, or mmHg. Lower numbers indicate a milder compression; higher numbers a higher compression. The right level of compression for you depends on why you are wearing them.
If you are at increased risk for DVT, for example, you’ll need a higher level of compression. The highest level of compression socks is reserved for individuals who are on bed rest due to surgery or injury. This type is called thrombo-embolic deterrent hose, or TED.
Compression levels include:
- Mild compression (8-15 mmHg): This level works well for many situations. It is best for pregnant women, those on their feet for long periods, and individuals with minor leg swelling.
- Medium compression (15-20 mmHg): This compression level can provide relief from varicose vein symptoms and help with their prevention. It is also appropriate for those traveling long periods, to reduce the risks of DVT, and sometimes after vein treatment.
- High compression (20-30 mmHg): This type is best for severe varicose veins. It may also be recommended for some individuals after vein treatment. It can help prevent severe edema and DVT, as well as reduce orthostatic hypotension symptoms.
- Extra-firm (30-40 mmHg): This level is used for severe venous insufficiency, edema, DVT risk, and orthostatic hypotension.
- Above 30-40 mmHg: Must be medically prescribed.
Ask your doctor about the right compression level for your health condition. They can also measure your leg circumference to prescribe the best, most comfortable fit.
3. Will Insurance Cover My Compression Socks?
Some insurance plans cover compression socks, particularly when prescribed at a high compression level. Unfortunately, Medicare does not cover compression socks at this time.
4. Should I Request a Prescription for Compression Socks?
You don’t need a prescription for most compression levels. However, it may be helpful to discuss the best ways to wear compression socks with your doctor or vein specialist. They can also help identify the best type and size for you.
5. Should Everyone Consider Wearing Compression Socks?
Not everyone should wear compression socks. If you have one of the following conditions, please contact your doctor before using them:
- Congestive heart failure
- Septic phlebitis of the leg
- Advanced arterial disease of the leg
- Skin infections
- Peripheral neuropathy
- Fabric allergies
6. Do Compression Socks Contain Latex?
If you have a latex allergy, you can still wear compression socks. Just read the labels carefully. Some brands use latex, but many others use spandex.
7. Can I Wear Two Layers of Compression Socks?
If you need to increase your compression level, you can double up. If you do, be sure to look out for wrinkles and bunching in the lower sock.
8. What Length Compression Sock Should I Purchase?
Most individuals opt for knee-length compression socks. These work well for varicose veins and venous insufficiency symptoms in the lower legs. If vein symptoms occur above the knee, you may need to consider compression hose, tights, or thigh-highs.
9. Are Runs an Issue With Compression Stockings?
Some compression stockings are made from thin, sheer materials. This type is more likely to run than thicker, more sturdy ones. Unfortunately, the level of compression is affected when this occurs. If you have a run in your compression garment, you should replace it.
10. How Do I Wash Compression Socks?
You should wash your compression socks each time you wear them. This removes any dirt and odor and helps them regain their elasticity.
For the best results, soak your compression garments in cold water and mild detergent for 5 to 10 minutes, then rinse thoroughly. Afterward, hang or lay flat to air dry. Avoid using any heat; this will damage their elasticity.
11. What Are Some Tips to Help When Putting Compression Stockings On?
Because compression stockings are tight, they can be a challenge to put on. We recommend doing this first thing in the morning, before you get out of bed. Get started by folding the top half of the sock over towards the foot section. Then, insert your toes all the way to the end of the sock. Next, carefully pull on the rest of the foot section. Finally, pull the folded-over section up over the calf and towards your knee.
You can smooth out any wrinkles or bunches as you go. While putting on compression socks may seem difficult at first, it gets easier with practice.
Vein Treatment at USA Vein Clinics
Along with the benefits of compression socks, you may be interested in other methods for improving painful and uncomfortable vein disease symptoms. At USA Vein Clinics, we offer a variety of vein treatments that can help your sore, achy legs.
If varicose veins are making you miserable, don’t suffer any longer. For your safety and convenience, we are now offering our patients a choice of in-office or telemedicine consultations. Give us a call at 888-768-3467 or schedule an appointment online. We look forward to hearing from you!