Who remembers their grandmother wearing compression socks or stockings? These specially made stockings are becoming more main stream for not just the elderly but anyone who might be at risk for blood clots in their legs. It is not uncommon for those who spend long hours either on their feet or in a seated position to invest in a pair to protect their legs. This includes flight attendants, pilots, nurses, runners and pregnant women.
Compression stockings gently squeeze your legs to move blood up towards your heart preventing discomfort and leg swelling. They are also prescribed to wear after a person has had surgery and are often recommended for anyone with varicose veins or spider veins.
Who benefits from wearing compression stockings?
Anyone with leg problems or at risk for blood clots in the legs known as deep vein thrombosis (DVT), can benefit from wearing compression stockings. This includes:
· Anyone on prolonged bed rest
· Anyone sitting for long periods of time
· A woman using birth control pills or on hormone replacement therapy
· A woman who is pregnant
· Anyone with a family history of DVT
· Anyone with inflammatory bowel disease
· Anyone with varicose veins, leg ulcers, or spider veins
· Anyone with leg swelling or edema or has circulatory problems
· Anyone who spendsa lot of time on their feet
· Some athletes such as runners and basketball players have found them useful
How do compression stockings help?
It takes a great deal of effort for blood in the leg veins to flow back to the heart as it works against gravity. If there are any circulation issues or if someone is sedentary a lot, this can result in blood pooling in the veins of the lower legs or feet causing leg swelling, achiness and a feeling of fatigue in the legs.
Compression stockings fit very snugly but that helps by squeezing the leg tissues and walls of the veins helping with the return of blood back to the heart. This also can help in the flow of lymph, a fluid that bathes the cells, to reduce tissue swelling. Some people like to wear compression stockings regularly even if they don’t have a medical need to. They often admit they like how the stockings make their legs feels less tired.
Who should not wear compression stockings?
Most people can wear compression stockings with few or no complications as long as they are worn smoothly against the leg without any folds.
However, there are some people who should not wear them which include the following:
· Anyone with peripheral neuropathy as they may not feel if the stockings are too tight
· Anyone with a skin infection or has fragile skin
· Anyone with massive leg swelling
· Anyone with pulmonary edema from congestive heart failure
Buying compression stockings
It is important to make sure you buy the correct fit for wearing compression stockings. Usually taking measurements of several different parts of your leg such as the circumference of the ankle, calf, and thigh and the distance from the knee or thigh to the floor are needed ensuring a proper fit.
Compression stockings can be worn either knee-high or thigh-high depending on the reasons for wearing them. It is more comfortable to wear knee-high than thigh-high, particularly if you wear them for running or nonmedical reasons. If it has been recommended for you to wear them for a medical reason, let you physician decide which one to buy.
The stockings can be worn all day and then taken off at night at bedtime. If you are wearing them for a medical reason such as after a surgery, ask your physician what is recommended for you.
Are there other things a person can do besides wearing compression stockings to help with circulation in the legs?
The answer to this is yes. Not everyone wants or needs to wear compression stockings. If you have concerns with preventing unsightly veins in the legs or developing DVT when seated for an extended length of time, here are a few things one can do to help with this:
· Walk briskly at least three times a week for 30 minutes to improve circulation. Any type of aerobic exercise involving moving the legs (bicycling, jogging, swimming, jumping rope, etc.) can be helpful.
· Elevate legs frequently throughout the day whenever possible. Lying on your back with your legs elevated, such as on a couch on or the floor, is a great way to help blood flow back to the heart.
· If seated in a car or plane, do foot circles or flexing and pointing of your feet can keep blood from pooling in the lower legs.
· Avoid standing for long periods of time on a hard surfaced floor such as cement. If you have a job that requires frequent bouts of standing, use a cushioned floor mat to relieve pressure on the legs.