Compression Socks Explained
Compression socks are specially designed garments that help to improve blood circulation by applying gentle pressure on the ankles and legs during the day. The compression starts at the ankle with the greatest amount of pressure and gradually reduces as it moves up the leg. Blood flow is pushed upwards from your legs to your heart, which can help to reduce swelling during periods of inactivity, as well as prevent blood clots, including deep vein thrombosis (DVT) which can lead to serious medical complications.
There are different types of compression socks. These include gradient compression socks which apply the most pressure at the ankles and generally need to be fitted by a health care professional. Gradient stockings help with mobility and are available in different lengths and strengths to suit your condition.
Anti-embolism stockings use gradient compression to help reduce the risk of DVT and are designed for those with no or limited mobility.
Non-medical support stockings are available over the counter without a prescription. They include flight socks and hosiery with less pressure than prescribed socks to aid in the relief of aching muscles and tired legs.
Who Needs to Wear Compression Socks?
Compression therapy may be recommended to people at different stages of their lives who need to improve their blood flow and treat or prevent certain medical conditions. This includes:
- Elderly patients whose mobility is slowing down
- Pregnant women
- Those who have just had surgery
- Those who are on their feet for long periods of time
- Those who travel on long flights
- Those with a medical history of blood circulation problems, including DVT and varicose veins
What About Varicose Veins?
Venous insufficiency is when your veins have difficulty sending blood from the limbs to the heart. One of the issues that can arise from chronic venous insufficiency is varicose veins. This is when the valves in the veins have been damaged and cause the veins to appear as twisted bright blue or purple veins that are visible beneath the skin. Other symptoms may include swelling ankles and heavy legs after a long day, as well as night cramps.
Compression socks may be useful in preventing and treating varicose veins. The socks can put pressure on the legs to compress the arteries and veins which will help the vein valves to push blood back to the heart more easily.
How Can They Help?
Compression socks work by placing pressure on your legs to help the blood vessels perform better. This makes the arteries that carry blood to your muscles relax which enhances blood flow, and veins are boosted as they send blood back to the heart.
As the blood can move more freely, it is less likely to pool in one area and form a blood clot. If a blood clot detaches itself and is carried along with your blood, it can lodge someplace dangerous, such as the heart or lungs. A blood clot can also make it more difficult for blood to flow which can cause swelling and skin discolouration.
Some of the major benefits of wearing compression socks may include:
- Improved blood circulation
- Supported veins
- Less chance of blood pooling in legs and creating a blood clot
- Reduced leg swelling
- Reduced pain associated with varicose veins
- Prevention of venous ulcers
- Prevention of DVT in legs
- Reduced light-headedness when standing due to orthostatic hypotension
- Improved lymphatic drainage
What Medical Conditions Can They Help with?
Compression socks may be prescribed by your doctor to help treat and prevent a number of medical conditions, particularly if you have a family history of them. These can include, deep vein thrombosis, varicose veins, venous ulcers, orthostatic hypotension, and swelling, which is known as oedema. They may also be recommended to pregnant women, athletes, and people who have just had surgery and will not be as active as usual for a period of time.
What is an Embolism?
An embolism occurs when a blood clot or foreign object has broken free in a part of the body and become stuck in a blood vessel, restricting the flow of blood. There are different types of embolism that range in symptoms and severity. Venous thrombosis is a blockage in a major or deep vein, typically in the lower legs. A pulmonary embolism is a blockage in the lungs and is very serious. It is most commonly associated with DVT. Arterial thrombosis is usually associated with atherosclerosis which refers to plaque in the arteries. This narrows the arteries which places more pressure on the blood vessels. If the plaque ruptures, this can lead to the formation of a large clot which can trigger a heart attack or stroke.
How Often Should You Wear Your Socks?
How often you'll need to wear your compression socks depends on what you are using them to treat. If you have been prescribed socks, always follow the instructions set by your doctor. For mild aching and swelling in the legs, you will generally need to wear the socks every day to help alleviate symptoms. In other situations, you may be able to just wear them when your legs are swollen or achy. Compression socks are not typically worn at night while sleeping or lying down.
How Long do Compression Socks Last?
The compression in the socks can lessen the more you wear them. It is advised to replace your compression socks every 4-6 months if you wear them every day to ensure they continue to deliver optimal effects. It's a good idea to have two pairs and alternate between them to extend their life.
Choosing the Right Gradient of Compression for You
Graduated compression stockings apply the most amount of pressure at the ankles and gradually decrease as they move upwards. The level of compression is measured in mmHg. While compression socks should feel snug, they should not be painful. Socks with mild compression are approximately 15-21 mmHg and are generally sufficient for standing on your feet all day at work. High compression stockings have a much firmer fit with approximately 20-32 mmHg and are used to prevent medical conditions, such as DVT.
Speak to your health care professional who can help you to get fitted properly.
Which Length of Sock do You Need?
Compression socks come in 3 different lengths. You can get knee-high, thigh-high, and waist-high compression tights for full coverage. While both knee-high and thigh-high support stockings aim to improve circulation and prevent the development of blood clots, knee-high socks are typically easier and more comfortable to wear. Waist-high tights may be recommended if you have venous issues that affect the entire leg. They are also becoming increasingly popular with athletes to help with blood flow.
Does the Style Matter?
Compression socks come in different closed-toe and open-toe options, as well as different colours, to help them fit in with your lifestyle and personal preference. An open toe design extends to the base of your toes, which can be beneficial if you have swelling in your feet and ankles. They're also great during the summer as they can be worn with sandals. Closed-toe socks look like regular socks and can be worn with boots, sneakers, heels, and more. They're a better option during the winter where you may need extra warmth.
Amcal stocks a fantastic range of compression socks and tights to help alleviate tired, aching muscles during long flights and workdays. Shop Scholl Light Legs compression tights for women in sheer natural to blend in with any outfit. Starting with 10 mmHg at the ankles and ending at 3.5 mmHg on the thighs, they are made with ladder lock technology and last up to 50 washes without losing compression. We also stock knee-high flight socks for men and women in beige and black in various sizes. These socks work to minimise swelling and aching on long flights, have a 14-17 mmHg compression factor, and can last up to 30 washes.
Washing Your Compression Socks
Keep your socks clean by washing them regularly by hand or gentle machine wash. Turn them inside out and wash with a mild detergent in lukewarm water. Air dry them to retain their compression properties for longer.
How Amcal Can Help You
Amcal stock a great range of compression garments to help you improve blood circulation, prevent DVT, and reduce swelling and aching in tired legs. Shop our high-quality Scholl unisex flight socks in beige and black for long flights and trips. We also have Scholl ladies pantyhose in natural small, medium, and large with a sheer finish that will complement any work uniform or outfit. To help relieve symptoms of plantar fasciitis, such as heel spurs and arch pain, the Thermoskin Fxt Compression Socks offer moderate to firm compression with 15-30 mmHg.
Shop online and discover our full range of products to help you feel better every day, including vitamins and supplements, pain relief medication, cough, cold and flu, skincare, beauty, baby products and so much more. Enjoy free delivery when you spend over $89 or come into your nearest Amcal and let our expert team help you find everything you need.
FAQs About Compression Socks
How Long Should You Wear Compression Socks?
If you have been prescribed compression socks, you need to wear them as your doctor has instructed. For mild swelling and aching, you can wear low compression tights, such as Scholl Light Legs, every day at work or whenever you experience swollen and painful legs. Take them off at night when you sleep, or when you lie down.
What Are the Benefits of Compression Socks?
Compression therapy can have many benefits for those who want to improve their blood circulation and lower their risk of blood clots. Here are some of the major benefits you may experience with our Scholl and Thermoskin socks:
- Improved blood flow
- Decreased risk of clotting and DVT
- Reduced swelling and aching in legs
- Prevention of venous ulcers
- Alleviation of symptoms associated with varicose veins
- Relief from arch pain, heel spurs, and plantar fasciitis
- Reduced dizziness associated with orthostatic hypotension
Can Wearing Compression Socks be Harmful?
Compression socks are generally safe for most people. However, there may be some side effects, including:
- Decreased blood circulation if the sock has not been fitted correctly and is too tight
- Chafing and bruising
- Itchiness and redness if you have sensitive skin. Remember to follow a proper skincare regime while wearing compression socks with high-quality ingredients that can help to prevent dryness and irritation.
When Should You Not Wear Compression Stockings?
Compression socks are not suitable for everyone. Pregnant women and those with diabetes, arterial insufficiencies, and very sensitive skin should talk to a health care professional before wearing them as they can increase complications. Amcal offers health services with a qualified pharmacist to help you determine whether compression socks are right for you.