How Compression Socks Benefit Your Legs and Health

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Woman putting on compression socks

Benefits of Wearing Compression Socks

Are you one of the millions of people who suffer from varicose veins? If so, you might be familiar with the telltale 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 can improve your symptoms, we understand you need relief right now. Learn more about vein treatment.

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.

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How Do Compression Socks Work?

It is not a surprise that compression socks were invented by an engineer who suffered from varicose veins himself. Today’s compression stockings, sometimes known as compression stockings, are designed to supply consistent pressure in the legs. The resulting compression can alleviate pressure on the muscles, bones, and connective tissues and help reduce pain and swelling associated with varicose veins.

“I like to tell patients that our veins are like an elevator,” says Aaron Shiloh, M.D. an Interventional Radiologist and Vascular Specialist at USA Vein Clinics. “Compression helps by adding the upward motion from the foot and ankle as well as moving more blood up to the heart.”

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 work by applying pressure to the veins so the blood can return back to the heart more easily. Stockings usually exert more pressure near the ankles and feet, providing an extra squeeze that promotes blood flow.

Why Should I Wear Compression Socks?

The trend of wearing compression socks has grown in recent years. Today, everyone from runners to pregnant women wear them to prevent muscle fatigue and swelling. While many people wear compression socks for varicose vein prevention, there are other reasons to use them including:

Woman putting on compression socks

Varicose veins:
Compression socks are worn both before and after treatment.

Pregnancy:
Improves blood flow, reduces swelling, and can prevent spider or varicose veins from developing or getting worse.

Traveling or prolonged standing at work:
Decreases swelling in the legs.

Athletic performance:
Some athletes, particularly runners, wear these garments to improve performance, protect against injury, and reduce muscle soreness.

Leg swelling:
Helps control edema (swelling) from various medical conditions like heart failure, kidney disease, and pregnancy that cause the body to retain fluids.

Reduce the risk of Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT):
Compression socks can help prevent DVT, a severe and painful blood clot that develops in a vein in the leg or pelvis and causes serious complications, including pulmonary embolism if the clot travels to the lungs.

“People wear compression socks because doctors advise patients to wear compression socks to alleviate swelling or varicose veins,” Dr. Shiloh says. “Unfortunately, the more serious underlying medical condition is often never addressed.”

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) and helpful answers by our vein specialists.

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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 Sock Should I Wear?

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.

Compression socks are available in knee-high, thigh-high, and full pantyhose. Knee-high socks are the most common choice for patients who travel or for people who stand for an extended amount of time. Thigh-high socks are usually for patients who are recovering from vein treatment.

  • Mild Compression (15-20mmgHg): The level is ideal for people who are traveling, have tired, aching legs or who stand or sit for extended periods of time.
  • Moderate Compression (20-30mmHg): Recommended for minor swelling.
  • Firm: (30-40mmHg) Usually for patients after a fracture, severe edema, or after vein procedures. Must be medically prescribed.

3. 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.

There are many colors and fabrics available on the market today for compression stockings. Color and fabrics are personal preferences and will not change how the socks work.

4. What Length 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.

Person putting on compression socks

5. How Should I Measure My Legs?

If you measure yourself for compression socks, it is best to do so in the morning before swelling occurs. Each brand of socks has different sizing, so it is important to check the sizing for the brand you are buying. Medical-grade socks are usually considered higher quality and provide the most accurate compression.

  • Knee socks: Measure the circumference of your ankle (around your ankle), the circumference of your calf and the length of your calf (from the knee to the heel sitting with your legs at a 90-degree angle).
  • Thigh-highs: Measure the ankle, calf, and thigh circumference. Then measure the leg length starting at the groin to the floor.
  • Pantyhose: The circumference of the hip is also measured. Each brand of socks has different sizing, so it is essential to check the sizing for the brand you are purchasing.

6. 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.

7. Do I Need 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.

8. Should Everyone Consider Wearing Compression Socks?

While there is minimal risk for wearing compression socks, Dr. Shiloh asserts they are not recommended for some patients.

“If you have peripheral artery disease (PAD) affecting your lower extremities, compression socks are not recommended because it can make the disease worse. Also, some diabetic patients can be at increased risk of complications since neuropathy prevents them from feeling the changes in their feet.”

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
  • Dermatitis

9. Tips for Putting Compression Socks On

Compression socks should be snug because that’s what makes them medically useful. It is also why it can be challenging to put pressure socks on, especially over the heel and ankle.

Unfortunately, when people get discouraged, they do not wear them consistently – and the swelling in their lower legs and ankles tends to worsen rather than get better.

Here are some tips to making sure you are using your compression socks the correct way:

  1. Put your hand in the stocking and grab the heel between your thumb and fingers as if you are making a sock puppet.
  2. While holding the heel, turn the product inside out, which brings the heel to the forefront.
  3. Step into the foot and pull down to the stocking heel, working on getting it over your heel.
  4. Smooth out all wrinkles. Consider wearing rubber gloves to make it an easier process.

10. How Do I Care for My 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.

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!

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