WHAT ARE THEY?
Compression stockings are specialized hosiery (foot/legwear) designed to prevent and manage circulatory disorders in the lower limb. Typically these garments are aimed at preventing the formation of clots in the lower limb as well as preventing swelling and pooling of blood in the legs and feet of those who suffer from these types of problems. Compression socks are designed to reduce the diameter of distended/insufficient veins and increase venous blood flow and valve effectiveness. Unlike traditional socks/stockings, compression socks use stronger elastics to create and maintain pressure on the lower limbs. They are tightest by the ankles and gradually become less constrictive towards the knees.
HOW DO THEY WORK?
Physiologically, the blood in human veins must work against gravity to return to the heart and become re-oxygenated. Venous return can be impeded by circulatory problems, lack of movement or bed rest (injuries or surgeries) or venous insufficiency (weakness in the venous walls). The results in pooling of blood in the veins of the lower legs and feet which in turn can cause swelling (edema), aches and pains, and fatigue; worst case scenario, a clot can form. By compressing the legs and feet, compression socks can aid in returning deoxygenated blood to the heart. They can also improve the flow of lymphatic fluid, which also reduces swelling. In healthy people, the garments can improve comfort and recovery in athletes.
WHAT DO THEY TREAT?
Typically, compression socks are prescribed to treat and relieve symptoms associated with chronic venous disease. They are recommended for the following conditions: edema, chronic venous insufficiency, varicose veins, deep vein thrombosis, lymphedema, phlebitis, lipodermatosclerosis and pregnancy. In addition to chronic health care conditions, they can be recommended to those who are required to stand or walk for long periods of time and athletes.
It is important to note that proper fitting is essential to getting the right fit for each condition. Health care providers who dispense compression socks are trained in this area and can recommend the proper fit. Improperly worn stockings can result in discomfort and worsening of symptoms. However, when prescribed, fitted and worn properly, these are an effective tool for improving activities of daily living and improving quality of life!