What are Compression Socks, and Should You Use Them?

Compression socks help with various venous and lymphatic conditions of the feet and legs, and their popularity has recently exploded. Let us explore why.

Introduction

Compression socks are made of specially designed, close-fitting, and stretchable hosiery material. As the name suggests, they provide a subtle squeeze, increasing blood flow and reducing pressure on veins.

They are made of varied materials and come in many sizes and lengths to aid in different kinds of medical conditions. Compression socks are somewhat tight around the ankles and become less constrictive towards the knees.

How do they work?

The relative tightness of the compression socks exerts pressure on the blood vessels. This pressure relaxes the arteries (blood vessels carrying oxygen-rich blood). By compressing the surface veins, they force blood through narrow channels.

As the blood circulation improves, pain and swelling in the feet reduce. The pressure exerted also gives a boost to veins, helping push the blood back to the heart.

Runners, triathletes, and other athletes commonly wear compression socks. During practices and games, better blood flow will get oxygen to their muscles, and the support prevents tissue damage. This will help them recover faster and reduce the chances of cramps in the body.

Benefits of compression socks

  • Boost blood circulation in limbs

  • Support veins by providing compression

  • Prevent pooling of blood in veins

  • Reduce swelling in legs

  • Reduce lightheadedness

  • Help in the prevention of venous ulcers

  • Prevent deep vein thrombosis in the legs

  • Help in reducing pain caused by varicose veins

Who uses compression socks?

Compression socks are meant to provide aid and relief for various day-to-day problems. You may want to use compression socks if you:

  • recently had surgery

  • are unable to move your leg or have a tough time moving your leg

  • need to stand all-day

  • are pregnant

  • are an athlete

  • Have circulatory issues such as varicose veins or DVT (deep vein thrombosis)

  • are diabetic

  • need to spend long hours sitting in one place

How many kinds are there?

Compression socks come in diverse levels of pressure, depending on one's requirements. Lower-pressure socks can be used to keep your feet comfortable at work, while higher-pressure socks can be used to prevent DVT.

The medical industry has divided compression socks into three categories depending on one's condition.

  • Graduated compression stockings

  • Anti-embolism socks

  • Non-medical support hosiery

Graduated or medical compression socks

Graduated compression socks provide the most pressure on the ankles. It is designed for the patient's need for consistency and durability. It is used to treat chronic venous diseases, varicose and spider veins, ulcers, and Edema.

Anti-embolism socks

Anti-embolism socks are specially designed for bed-ridden patients. They are used for treating disorders like DVT.

Non-medical support socks

Non-medical socks provide support for our day-to-day problems. Flight socks or elastic support socks provide relief for tired, aching legs.

The major distinction of non-medical socks is that they provide uniform compression across the length of the socks. You do not need a medical prescription to buy them.

What are compression socks made of?

Compression socks can be made of various materials, like nylon, cotton, spandex, and rubber. The fibers can be used in varied combinations depending on the desired elasticity, softness, and appearance. However, you will generally find compression socks made of elastane, spandex, microfiber, nylon, polyamide, or silk.

How to use them

  • Avoid bunching up your socks.

  • Always keep them flat.

  • Do not fold or roll them.

  • Make sure they fit perfectly, not too tight, or too loose.

  • If you have been prescribed the socks by a medical practitioner, make sure you follow instructions for how long you should wear them.

Side Effects of Wearing Compression Socks:

Even though compression socks have more positives than negatives, it does have certain negative impacts.

  1. Skin Issues: A major concern with compression socks is the skin issues it causes, especially in older adults. They can cause abrasions, bruises, itchiness, sores, chafing, and redness.

  2. Circulation problems: If the compression socks are loose or too tight, it can cause circulatory problems.

  3. Not fit for certain patients: It is recommended that patients with severe vascular disease do not wear compression socks. It is always best to check with your general physician about the type and compression level of the socks that you want to wear.

Conclusion

Some people worry about compression socks applying the right amount of pressure, but there is generally no significant risk to wearing them without a medical prescription.

Most compression socks available in medical or athletic stores provide low to medium pressure. It is only for patients with heart issues or DVT that the advice of a professional is necessary.

If you want to start your journey with compression socks, you can find them here.