Compression stockings are widely used by people for comfort, sports performance and to help alleviate symptoms associated with medical conditions such as varicose veins and spider veins. With many options available to consumers, how do you know which type is best for you?
Before choosing compression stockings, it’s important to understand how they work, the different types of stockings, and what benefits compression stockings have when used correctly.
How Compression Stockings Work
Compression stockings improve blood circulation by applying pressure to your legs and ankles. This pressure helps the blood vessels in your legs work better. Blood flows more freely and your veins get a boost sending blood back to your heart.
Types of Compression Stockings
There are three main types of compression stockings designed for different uses and benefits. The types are:
- Graduated compression
- Nonmedical-support hosiery
Graduated compression stockings provide a stronger compression level at the ankle and then decreases up the stocking toward the knee. Graduated compression therapy is routinely prescribed to address minor to moderate venous insufficiency. Graduated compression stockings usually require a professional fitting by a vein specialist.
Anti-embolism stockings help reduce the risk of deep vein thrombosis or can be used as part of a therapy plan for post-thrombotic syndrome. Like graduated compression stockings, the compression level is gradient and changes from the ankle to the knee.
Nonmedical-support hosiery can be purchased at most pharmacies or big-box stores like Wal-Mart and Target. This type of stocking has similar features to prescription stockings and improve circulation in your legs. Athletes tend to use non-medical support hosiery as well as people who stand for long periods of time throughout the day.
Benefits of Compression Stockings
There are many benefits associated with wearing compression socks including:
- Help keep your legs from feeling tired and achy
- Reduce the risk of DVT or blood clot
- Address symptoms associated with varicose veins and other venous insufficiencies
- Boost circulation and improve blood pressure in the legs
Choosing the Right Compression Stockings
Choosing the right type of compression stockings can feel overwhelming. Talk to your doctor about which type is best for you. You first need to find out which compression level is right for your needs and then determine which size will help you meet your health goals.
Compression stockings range in the amount of pressure on your legs using a scale from mild to extra firm and measured in millimeters of mercury (mmHg).
- Mild: Mild compression stockings exert 8-15 mmHg and are used for light swelling of the feet or for people who feel fatigued from standing. These are readily available as over-the-counter at your local pharmacy.
- Medium: Medium compression ranges from 15-20 mmHg. This may be recommended if you have never worn compression stockings before.
- Firm: Firm stockings are categorized as 20-30 mmHg. Pregnant women sometimes use firm stockings to reduce the risk of varicose veins.
- Extra-firm: Extra firm compression stockings, which use 30-40 mmHg, are used to treat moderate to severe leg health symptoms. Doctors may prescribe this type of stocking for patients at risk for DVT or blood clots.
Compression stockings are available with compression at greater than 40 mmHg and are used for severe venous stasis, wound management, and lymphedema. These stockings should not be used without consulting a doctor prior to use.
Compression Sock Sizes
Compression socks come in different heights and sizes including full-length pantyhose, thigh-high and knee-length. The choice of length depends on the reason you are wearing compression socks and your personal preference.
Proper fit is important for comfort and benefits. To make sure you have the proper size, ask your doctor to fit you for stockings. This will include measuring your legs, typically the circumference of your ankle and your calf. For over-the-counter stockings or stockings used primarily for athletes, sizing may be based on shoe size.
Do I Need to Talk to a Doctor About Compression Stockings?
If you suffer from leg fatigue, varicose veins, or at risk for other medical conditions, it’s important to talk to your doctor before starting compression therapy. Your doctor can help you understand how to choose compression stockings to optimize your leg health.
At Premier Vein Specialists, we can help you determine if compression therapy is right for you. Dr. Mathai, Director and Leading Physician of Premier Vein Specialists, offers free vein health screenings at both the York and Hanover offices. After the consultation, Dr. Mathai will review your treatment options and recommend a path to health.
Complete our vein health screening form, or call 717-412-7226, to get scheduled today.
At Premier Vein Specialists, your health is our priority. Our offices in York and Hanover only admit one patient at a time, and we follow all health and safety guidelines to prevent the spread of COVID-19.