Compression socks & stockings are designed to help people suffering from venous disorders caused by poor lower leg blood circulation. Another name for compression stockings is “anti embolism stockings”.
The conditions that these products can help to treat include varicose veins, deep vein thrombosis (DVT), lymphedema and shin splints. They do this by helping to improve circulation in the legs. Improved blood flow helps to remove the root cause of many of these venous disorders. If you suffer from a venous insufficiency in the lower legs, your doctor will probably recommend that you wear compression stockings.
Compression socks and stockings are available in a wide variety of styles, colours and compression levels. You can choose a pair to meet almost every conceivable need.
You can buy them in either open or closed toe form. Compression socks only go up as far as the knee. However, stockings are available in knee high, thigh high and panty hose styles.
Graduated leg compression sleeves (such as the Legend compression leg sleeve) are another popular option available in the market. These cover just the calf and shin areas and leave the foot uncovered.
Another key style variation is sheer vs opaque. Sheer stockings are more transparent in constructions and offer greater coolness and comfort in the summer months. Opaque styles are preferable in the colder months of the year as they offer greater warmth to the wearer.
The most popular compression options are 15-20 mmHG and 20-30 mmHg (described in more detail below). However, those in need of extra high compression levels can also buy 30-40 mmHG compression stockings.
One of the most attractive features of compression socks and stockings is their inclusion in many Canadian employer sponsored insurance plans. Many of these plans have an annual amount that can be used specifically to purchase these socks and stockings.
It is possible that your plan may not have an amount set aside specifically for these products. However, you may still be able to obtain partial reimbursement from your insurer. This is particularly the case if your doctor writes you a prescription for them.
How Compression Socks & Stockings Work
Compression socks and stockings use graduated compression to gently squeeze the lower leg. It helps to force the blood back up the lower leg towards the heart.
With graduated compression, the maximum compression is applied at ankle level and gradually reduces at higher points along the leg. For example, a 15-20 mmHG stocking applies 20 mmHg of compression at ankle level. This is then gradually reduced until the knee is reached where 15 mmHg of compression is applied.
This decrease in compression levels helps force the blood up the leg towards the lower compression areas.
Graduated compression therefore helps to counter the effects of gravity. It gives the blood a “push start” on its journey back through the veins to the heart. The pooling of blood and, with it, the leg swelling suffered by those with poor circulation is therefore mitigated.
Moderate Graduated Compression
The 15-20 mmHg level is referred to as mild to moderate graduated compression. It is useful for treating mild venous problems. It also helps to treat tired or “heavy” legs at the end of a long day spent on the feet.
Many individuals wear graduated compression stockings in order to avoid heavy or tired legs at the end of the day. These include teachers, air hostesses and others who are required to spend long hours on their feet.
Moderate graduated compression is also of use to athletes who wish to maintain peak performance for longer periods. Many athletes and physically active individuals wear compression socks for this purpose.
Medical Graduated Compression
Compression stockings that offer graduated compression of 20-30 mmHg apply 30 mmHg of compression at ankle level. This gradually reduces until knee level is reached, when 20 mmHg of compression is applied.
Doctors may also prescribe compression stockings to treat more serious venous disorders such as severe varicose veins or lymphedema.
You may suffer from deep vein thrombosis or are predisposed to develop this condition. If so , it’s likely that this compression level is more suited to your needs. DVT is a result of the formation of a blood clot in a deep vein, usually in your legs. By combating poor blood circulation in the legs, compression socks and stockings can help to reduce the risk of developing DVT.