Unless you are active in various sports such as running, are pregnant, or are part of the aging community, there’s a good chance that you don’t know very much about compression socks.
Granted, you have probably seen them in action or have maybe heard someone talk about how to put on compression socks and the benefits that come with them, but you probably haven’t had a chance to use them yourself.
So, what are compressions socks? How do you put them on, and of what benefit are they to you?
What Are Compression Socks?
Compression socks, compression stockings, and other compression hosiery are specially designed socks that are snug-fitting and quite stretchy. The biggest difference between these socks and regular socks is that compression socks are designed to provide pressure and promote circulation in your legs by gently squeezing them at different points.
Compression stockings are much tighter around the ankle and get looser further up along the leg. Compression socks get tighter and looser at various lengths.
You can typically buy compression stockings at most pharmacies if you need to do so. However, if your doctor prescribes medical compression stockings for you, your insurance might cover the cost of this kind of compression therapy.
Thankfully, compression socks aren’t that expensive, with a majority of them retailing for anywhere between $10 and $100 a pair, depending on the specific type you need and where you buy them.
Who Needs Compression Socks?
Since most compression garments can be bought at pharmacies or a medical supply store, anybody who feels they can benefit from compression socks can use them. That being said, there are specific medical conditions like pregnancy that might require you to use compression stockings either on doctor’s orders or simply for convenience and relief.
Here are some people who might consider the benefits of compression socks:
- People who experience circulation problems or leg swelling and have or are at risk of diabetes, varicose veins, blood pooling, etc.
- People who spend long periods of time on their feet for one reason or another, such as health care workers
- Pregnant women
- People who take a long flight or spend time on planes, such as pilots or frequent long-distance flyers
- People who are on strict bed rest or cannot move their legs as regularly as they should
- People with venous ulcers
How to Put on Compression Socks
While compression socks are designed to resemble regular socks, wearing and keeping them on isn’t quite the same. Here are some simple steps to follow for putting on compression socks properly:
- Make sure the stockings or socks aren’t bunched up. Smooth them out so they are flat against your skin
- Avoid folding or rolling the tops down. This might cause these sections to be too tight and could lead to blood circulation problems
- If you need compression socks because your doctor prescribed them for you, you should keep them on as directed. This typically means keeping them on for a majority of the time except when showering
- You can wear your regular slippers, shoes, or socks over compression socks
The Benefits of Wearing Compression Socks
Compression socks or compression stockings are designed to improve the blood flow in your lower legs. Typically, people wear them for comfort, as a directive from their doctor, and to do better in certain sports. Here are some of the reasons compression socks work.
Improve Blood Flow In Your Legs
Compression socks are designed to help improve the blood flow in your legs by helping the blood vessels work better, unlike regular socks. The pressure that firm compression socks apply helps push the blood up towards your heart and, as such, decreases the chances of blood pulling in the leg veins, a condition that could cause damage to the vein walls, damage to the valves, and inflammation of your veins.
Ease Swelling In Your Legs
Because a compression stocking or sock provides constant yet gentle pressure on various sections of your lower legs, they can keep them from getting achy and tired. They can also ease any swelling in your ankles and treat varicose veins and spider veins. A compression stocking might also help stop you from getting dizzy or light-headed whenever you stand up too fast.
Prevent Blood Clots
Compression socks play a huge role in preventing blood clots in your feet. This is mostly because the constant pressure applied by these socks keeps the blood flowing up towards your heart instead of pooling in your legs.
Improve Sports Performance
While there aren’t any scientific studies indicating that compression socks give athletes an unfair advantage in sports, the theory behind this is since compression stockings, socks, and sleeves help keep the blood flowing, they essentially help to get oxygenated blood to the muscles that need it during vigorous sports activity.
That’s why you often see some athletes (sprinters, runners, basketball players, and triathletes mostly) wearing compression stockings, knee-high socks, and sleeves.
The continuous flow of oxygenated blood helps prevent tissue damage and faster muscle recovery, which means that they won’t experience as much cramping or even be as sore as they typically would be without compression socks.
Side Effects of Wearing Compression Socks
As you would expect, there are a few side effects when you wear compression socks. You will notice that most of these side effects come from improper use of compression socks.
They include skin irritation or redness and skin changes. Should you notice any of these symptoms, there’s a good chance that:
- Your compression socks aren’t the right fit for you
- You have a foot infection
- You aren’t wearing your compression socks or stockings properly
- You might be allergic to that particular sock or stocking material
There are studies showing that improperly wearing compression socks or compression stockings can cause problems such as skin breakage, redness, and even peripheral nerve damage. There are also different levels of compression of socks and stockings, so make sure to consult a health care physician before using them.
While a compression sock is designed to help promote the blood flow from your lower legs towards your heart by applying gentle pressure, an improperly worn compression sock can be more of a problem.
Therefore, if you need to wear a compression sock, make sure that you get fitted properly for them and follow your doctor’s exact instructions and learn how to wear them.