Compression stockings can be found on the legs of a wide swath of the population, from pilots, flight attendants, athletes, and nurses to pregnant women, persons recovering from surgery, and persons otherwise at risk for blood clots in their legs.
Outside of medical uses, what’s are the benefit of wearing compression stockings? Are there risks to wearing them? What’s the meaning of the pressure ratings on the packages? Here, a quick guide to this sometimes confusing category of products.
Who Should Wear Compression Stockings?
Compression stockings are beneficial for persons with certain leg problems or at risk for blood clots in the legs, known as deep vein thrombosis (DVT). Many factors can increase the risk of these clots.
This are prolonged bed rest (such as after surgery), sitting for long periods (such as on a plane or a long drive), use of birth control pills, pregnancy, inflammatory bowel disease, and certain genetic clotting disorders.
Compression stockings are also sometimes used in persons who have an acute DVT, to prevent a group of symptoms known as post-thrombotic syndrome.
Other sets of people that can benefit from wearing compression stockings include persons with varicose veins, leg ulcers (also known as venous leg ulcers), leg swelling (edema), as well as those with circulatory issues.
Persons who spend a lot of time on their feet may be due to their kind of job may feel that the stockings improve comfort, even if they don’t have a clear health benefit in those cases.
How Compression Stocking Works
Blood in our veins has to work against gravity to flow back to the heart and Anything that impedes that flow, such as circulation problems (especially after an injury or surgery), or weakness in the walls of the veins of the legs (known as venous insufficiency,) results in blood gathering in the veins of the lower legs or feet, leading to leg inflammation, achiness, and leg fatigue.
By squeezing the leg tissues and walls of the veins, compression stockings can aid blood in the veins return to the heart. They can also improve the flow of the fluid (called lymph) that bathes the cells in the legs, thus reducing tissue swelling.
The compression stockings may improve comfort in some healthy wearers even if they don’t have a discernible health benefit. For example, improving the movement of blood and lymph may make legs feel less weak in some people.
Though runners and other athletes sometimes wear compression stockings to prevent injury or prevent aggravating your injury.
Are There Persons Who Shouldn’t Wear Compression Stockings?
Compression stockings are safe and wearing them results in few or no complications, provided they’re worn smoothly against the leg, without any folds. But some groups of people should avoid them.
This includes persons with peripheral neuropathy or any other condition that impacts skin sensation, persons with a history of peripheral arterial bypass grafting, peripheral artery disease, skin infection, dermatitis with oozing or fragile skin, massive leg swelling and pulmonary edema from congestive heart failure.
Each of these mentioned illnesses presents a different series of risks. For instance, for persons with peripheral artery disease, stockings can worsen oxygen delivery in arteries with impaired blood movement.
People with sensory issues, such as those with peripheral neuropathy, may not feel when a compression stocking is too tight, and this can impede circulation.
Certain skin ailments or infections may worsen with a compression stocking covering and pressing on the area. If you have any medical condition, first talk with your healthcare professional before using compression stockings to see if you’re a good candidate for them.
Where to Buy Your Compression Stockings
Compression stockings are sold online, in pharmacies, and at medical supply shops. Prices differ widely depending on many factors, this could be name of the brand, quality of the fabric (such as the smoothness and softness, breathability, and ability to wick away moisture), open or closed toed, made with latex or latex-free, and, of course, the length, strength of the compression, and the purpose the stocking is geared toward.
If you have a medical condition and your healthcare provider has recommended compression stockings, don’t forget to ask what type you should look for.
How do You Determine the Right Size and Height?
There is no general standard for sizing, so using a tape measure is key. You’ll need to measure several parts of your leg, such as the circumference of your ankle, calf, and thigh and also the distance from your knee or thigh to the floor, and all these measurements will depend on the length of stockings.
How high the stockings should be on your leg depends on your reasons for wearing them. Knee-highs stockings are easier to wear and generally more comfortable than wearing thigh-highs stockings.
If been worn for a non-medical reason, such as running or standing up for long hours on the job, its more logical to start with a knee-high pair and If you’re wearing the stockings for a medical condition, your physician will determine what’s best for you.
What do the Compression Ratings Mean?
Compression stockings come in four or five main levels of compression. This refers to the amount of pressure (measured in millimeters of mercury, or mmHg) applied to the leg. The higher the number, the better the compression. As a general rule, gentle or very light compression (under 15 mmHg) is for healthy people, such as pregnant women who have weary or fatigued legs from sitting or standing all day.
Moderate compression (15 to 20 mmHg) can avert DVT in airline passengers or help with minor leg inflammation. Higher compression levels (20 to 30 mmHg, 30 to 40 mmHg, or more than 40 mmHg), are for medical uses such as varicose veins, edema, and preventing blood clots post-surgery.
How long Should the Stockings be Worn?
This depends on the reasons for wearing them in the first place. If it’s due to issues related to the veins, the stockings can be worn all day and removed when going to bed or when relaxing at home. If you’re wearing them post-surgery, it’s recommended they be worn if you’ll be standing or sitting for a long period of time.
Note: If you have a medical condition, the first talk with your doctor about whether you might benefit from compression stockings and what type suits you best. If you’re healthy and want to try using them because of a long flight, a long drive, a job that requires lots of standing, or another non-medical reason (sports), you can experiment to see what’s most comfy and works best for you, starting with a low compression level.