Compression therapy helps increase blood circulation in the lower legs, ankles and feet. It is an effective treatment for pain and swelling caused by conditions associated with poor circulation, such as chronic venous insufficiency and varicose veins.
Compression therapy is a common treatment to help improve blood flow in your lower legs. It usually involves the use of elastic stockings or wraps. The elastic provides compression on your legs, ankles and feet. This helps prevent blood from pooling and fluid from building up in these areas.
Types of compression therapy
Compression socks are socks of various length and tightness that are designed to gently squeeze legs a bit more than typical socks. Are very usefull for people that have swelling in your legs, insufficient veins or to aid with blood flow when you’re sitting for long periods of time. Even athletes may benefit from wearing them from time to time.
Benefits of wearing compression socks:
- Increasing circulation and blood flow in your legs.
- Decreasing swelling in your legs and ankles.
- Preventing blood from pooling in your veins.
- Preventing blood clots.
- Improving lymphatic drainage.
- Helping reduce pain and discomfort.
Bandages and wraps
A compression bandage is a type of stretchy bandage that is wrapped around a body part to place pressure on it. It is commonly used in first aid as part of a therapy known as RICE (rest, ice, compression, and elevation), and helps to reduce pain and swelling by restricting blood flow.
Elastic bandages and Velcro wraps may be easier to apply for people who have difficulty putting on socks. Bandages are usually applied in multiple layers.
They provide a wider range of compression than other traditional compression garments. Easy to use, the compression wraps for legs provide steady and comfortable resting compression.
When using a compression bandage, you need to apply the right amount of pressure to prevent swelling and help stabilize the injury. This can be tricky since body parts and the blood vessels that supply them differ in size and shape. Wrapping a thigh is one thing; wrapping a complex joint like an ankle or wrist is another.
Intermittent pneumatic compression is a therapy that involves inflatable sleeves, which are fitted around the legs or arms. This sleeve is attached to a machine that intermittently fills the sleeves with air to create pressure around the affected limbs and then deflates them.
This device is most commonly utilized in the hospital to stimulate blood flow and reduce the risk of blood clots when a person is less active while recovering from injury or surgery.
Medical compression therapy involves the application of an elastic device, typically on the extremities, to apply controlled pressure. This compression device works by squeezing the walls of the veins together, enhancing general circulation, and aiding the return of blood to the heart.Moreover, it plays a role in minimizing swelling and edema formation in tissues by decreasing capillary leakage into the tissue and facilitating the drainage of interstitial fluid through the lymphatic system. Medical compression therapy brings substantial relief from leg discomfort, pain, sensations of swelling and heaviness, as well as other symptoms related to venous and lymphatic issues.
Compression stockings work by applying pressure on the veins and tissues in your feet and legs to optimize blood flow, or circulation. Compression socks will also aid in the prevention of blood clots, reduce pain and fatigue, and minimize swelling. These stockings are often graduated, applying stronger pressure on the feet and lower legs and more gentle pressure as they move up the leg.
Compression levels are measured in units called mmHg (millimetres of mercury) that denotes a certain amount of pressure. Over-the-counter compression stockings will range from 15-20 mmHg, and medical class stockings can range from 20 up to 50 mmHg.
Compression socks are known by several names, depending on their intended use, design, or specific features.
This type applies pressure to the legs and feet.
This type help to alleviate discomfort, swelling, or fatigue in the legs and feet.
Graduated compression stockings
This term specifies that the compression applied by the socks is graduated, meaning it is strongest at the ankle and gradually decreases towards the top of the sock.
Medical compression stockings
This type are specifically designed for medical purposes, such as managing venous disorders or preventing deep vein thrombosis
Athletic compression socks
They are meant to enhance performance, reduce muscle fatigue, and promote faster recovery.
This type is specifically designed for bedridden or post-surgical patients to help prevent blood clots and improve circulation.
How do compression stockings differ from support stockings?
While the term "support stockings" is commonly used interchangeably with medical compression wear, the underlying principles of these two types of stockings are distinct.Support stockings offer passive resistance to swelling, while compression stockings actively apply pressure to the leg veins. This active pressure prevents the veins from dilating and promotes efficient venous return.Medical compression garments are manufactured according to rigorous medical and technical standards to ensure precise ankle pressure and graduated compression along the length of the leg.
How Compression Socks Work
- Enhancing blood flow: Graduated compression encourages blood to flow upwards, counteracting the effects of gravity and helping blood return to the heart more efficiently. This improved blood circulation ensures that the leg muscles receive adequate oxygen and nutrients.
- Supporting vein function: Compression socks provide external support to the veins, helping them maintain their shape and function, which is particularly important if the veins' walls or valves are weak or damaged.
- Reducing swelling: By promoting better blood circulation and preventing blood from pooling, compression socks can help minimize the swelling (edema) often associated with various medical conditions or prolonged periods of inactivity.
- Alleviating symptoms: Compression socks can help alleviate symptoms of various conditions, such as pain, aching, heaviness, and fatigue in the legs.
- Preventing complications: Consistent use of compression socks can help prevent or manage complications of certain conditions, such as varicose veins, skin changes, or venous ulcers.
The most effective compression socks exhibit a "graduated" strength pattern rather than a "uniform" one. In graduated compression socks, the tightness is greater at the ankle than at the top, facilitating the upward movement of blood towards the heart and promoting circulation.
Compression stockings with relatively lower compression levels are available over the counter at drugstores, medical supply stores, and online, typically ranging around 15-20 mmHg.For compression stockings with higher levels of compression, a doctor's prescription is required.
The prescription specifies the necessary strength. While not legally mandated, most pharmacies refrain from dispensing higher-level compression wear without a prescription.When we refer to "high-level compression," we are talking about levels ranging from 20-30 mmHg to 30-40 mmHg. Although generally safe to wear, some individuals may be at risk due to contraindications, emphasizing the importance of doctor supervision.
Compression levels exceeding this range do exist, but your doctor should provide guidance on those.To ensure the correct level of compression and size, measurements need to be taken by a trained and certified fitter. If your doctor or physical therapist cannot perform the fitting, they should be able to refer you to a qualified professional.
- Mildly aching and tired legs
- Support and comfort for extended periods of standing or sitting
- Provides a little support for general health and energy
- Offers slightly more support, providing day-to-day relief from achy, heavy, slightly swollen legs
- Extra support on busy, active days or during travel
- Aids in enhanced circulation, particularly in the legs
- Can help prevent varicose and spider veins during pregnancy
- Most commonly prescribed by doctors
- Assists in various minor to moderate medical conditions
- Helps with chronically painful, heavily fatigued legs
- Effective in treating varicose veins
- Provides relief from mild edema-associated swelling
- Used in elective surgical procedures like sclerotherapy and phlebectomy
- Aids in treating orthostatic/postural hypotension (low blood pressure)
- Provides relief from moderate to severe edema and lymphedema
- Helps prevent and alleviate more serious cases of varicose veins
- Used in treating deep vein thrombosis (DVT) and post-thrombotic syndrome
- Assists in healing active venous stasis ulcers
- Utilized after bone fractures and orthopedic surgeries
- Effective in treating phlebitis
- Used in managing skin changes with healed ulceration
- Part of the treatment for chronic venous insufficiency
- Used in the most severe cases of DVT and post-thrombotic syndrome
- Applied in the treatment of severe skin changes with active ulceration
Graduated vs. Uniform Compression
Chronic venous insufficiency
Diabetes-related foot issues
Deep vein thrombosis
Pregnancy-related leg issues
How to measure
Here's a general guide on how to measure compression socks:
- Flexible measuring tape
- Paper and pencil (optional)
Measure at the Right Time
- It's best to measure your legs early in the day when they are less likely to be swollen.
Take Ankle Measurements
- Sit down and flex your foot slightly.
- Measure the circumference of the narrowest part of your ankle, usually just above the ankle bone.
Measure Calf Circumference
- Measure the widest part of your calf.
Determine Calf Length
- If you are purchasing knee-high or thigh-high compression socks, measure the length from the floor to the bend in your knee.
Note Foot Size (For Knee-High and Thigh-High Socks)
- If you're getting knee-high or thigh-high socks, measure your shoe size as well.
Follow the Sizing Chart
- Each brand may have its own sizing chart, so refer to the specific brand's guidelines.
Consider Compression Level
- If your doctor has prescribed a specific compression level, make sure to choose socks that match that recommendation.
Consult with a Professional
- If you're uncertain or have specific health conditions, consult with a healthcare professional or a certified fitter for accurate measurements and guidance.
- Once you have the socks, ensure they fit snugly but not too tight. They should provide even compression without causing discomfort.
Uncertain about Sizing? Schedule a Consultation with a Certified Fitter for Accurate Measurements!
How to put on and take off compression stockings
Have a pair of rubber gloves if needed for grip and Sit in a comfortable position.
Assistance Tools for Easy Wear:
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