Compression Stockings: A Guide

What Are They?

Compression stockings are especially made, snug-fitting, stretchy socks that are meant to gently squeeze your leg as you wear them. You can buy them over the counter, but if you are prescribed through a doctor, your insurance may cover the cost. The main purpose of compression stockings is that they improve your blood flow. They can reduce pain and swelling in your legs. They can also lower your chances of getting deep vein thrombosis (DVT), and other serious circulation problems. Compression Stockings come in varying sizes and strengths, so it is recommended that a doctor determine which option will work best for you.

Who Uses Them?

People wear compression stockings for comfort, athletic purposes, and to help prevent medical conditions; people who are dealing with circulation problem like DVT, varicose veins or diabetes, people who've just gotten surgery and can't leave their bed. They’re also used by people who have to stand all day at work and want to prevent pain in their legs. Athletes, pregnant women and people who spend long durations of time on airplanes (like pilots) also use compression stockings.

What Exactly Do They Do?

The pressure exerted by these stockings on your legs helps your blood vessels work better. The arteries that carry oxygen-rich blood to your muscles are allowed to relax, hence making blood flows freely. The veins get a boost pushing blood back to your heart.

Compression stockings can prevent your legs from getting tired and achy. They also ease swelling in your feet and ankles, and can help prevent and treat spider and varicose veins. Because the blood keeps circulating, it's harder for it to pool in the veins and form a clot. Clots prevent blood from flow around them, and can hence cause swelling and discolored skin among other problems.

What Kinds Are There?

Socks and sleeves come in varying lengths and sizes to cover different parts of your body. Most stockings go to just below the knee, but you can also find thigh-highs and tights. You can also use open toe compression stockings if you’re looking for flexibility in your movement but want to enjoy the benefits of compression stockings. They also come in varying levels of pressure. Stockings are supposed feel snug but not painfully tight. Mild compression is usually enough to keep people comfortable on their feet. However, you might need a tighter fit to prevent DVT. If you are looking to use the stockings for medical purposes, your doctor will measure your legs and prescribe the right fit for you.

How to Wear Them

Make sure to smooth out the stockings so they lie flat against your skin. Avoid bunching. They must not be too long. Make sure to not fold or roll the tops down, because that will make them too tight for you and could cause blood flow problems or even cut off your circulation. If you have been prescribed by a doctor, you'll probably want to keep them on most of the time. But you can take them off to shower or bath. You can also wear socks, slippers or shoes instead of compression stockings. Make sure to check with your doctor about how often and how long you need to use them.

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