Graduated compression stockings are one of the most popular and acceptable ways to improve leg blood circulation. However, these garments are not like they used to be – ‘plain medical socks with stiff fabric that old people only wear.’
We now recognize that compression socks benefit anyone who wants to maintain healthy legs. They are now available in various fabric options, compression levels, patterns, and colors, making them look like regular stylish socks and stockings. Nobody can say you are wearing them unless you say so!
While compression stockings have been the gold standard for managing various forms of venous and lymphatic disorders, the public’s awareness about these garments is quite limited. This article covers all you need to know about compression stockings so you can choose the correct ones for yourself.
What do you mean by graduated compression stockings?
Graduated compression stockings are designed to provide pressure to the legs in a graduated manner. This means that the pressure is maximum around the ankle and gradually decreases up the leg. This structure helps support the veins in the legs to bring blood back toward the heart, thus boosting blood flow and lymphatic drainage.
Types of Compression Stockings
There are three types of compression stockings:
1. Medical compression stockings or socks:
This type of compression garment is used for the management of venous and lymphatic conditions. They are available in different compression classes ranging from moderate to very strong. Due to the strength of the compression they provide, these garments should only be worn under the guidance of your doctor.
2. Support compression stockings or socks
This type of compression garment provides mild compression. They are safe for everyone to use, so they do not require a medical prescription.
Support compression socks are ideal for:
- Reducing pain and swelling in the legs
- Travel: preventing swelling and thrombosis
- While sitting and standing for long hours at a stretch
- Pre and post-workout
- Preventing venous disorders for those who are at risk of developing these conditions due to age, genetic predisposition, and lifestyle
3. Compression wraps:
These types of garments are a comparatively newer innovation. They are an alternative to compression socks but work on the same principle. They have velcro straps that make them easy to wear and take off. They are also a better option for those suffering from Lymphedema.
Benefits of Wearing Graduated Compression Stockings
There are several benefits of wearing compression socks:
- Support vein function and venous valves
- Boost blood flow
- Promote lymphatic fluid drainage
- Manage and prevent leg pain and swelling
- Manage and prevent venous and lymphatic conditions
- Heal venous ulcers
How is the strength of compression stockings graded?
Medical compression stockings are categorized based on the different compression pressures they offer. There are several guidelines and international standards that the manufacturer can follow.
Sigvaris follows the German Standard for compression classes, known to be the most stringent Standard.
Class 1 18-21mmHg
This compression level of 18-21 mmHg provides relief from mild symptoms of venous insufficiencies, such as pain, swelling, spider veins, and mild varicose veins. This can also be used to reduce the risk of these conditions.
Class 2- 23-32mmHg
This is the most commonly prescribed compression level by doctors and is used for the management of more pronounced cases of venous insufficiency.
Class 3- 34-46mmHg
This compression level should only be worn under the doctor’s guidance. Graduated compression stockings of class 3 offer high-strength compression, effective for severe cases of venous insufficiency such as active venous ulcers and acute varicose veins.
Sigvaris support socks
It offers mild graduated compression, approximately 14-17 mmHg of compression (less than class 1 level). This is an approximation because the sizing is based on the shoe size and is not as per leg measurements.
Consult A Doctor
If you suffer from a medical condition, you should consult your doctor before wearing graduated compression stockings. Then, depending on your condition, the doctor will guide you through the best compression level suited for you.
Remember to replace your compression stockings every five to six months to guarantee the amount of compression and effectiveness.
Problems Associated with the use of Graduated Compression Stockings
When choosing compression socks, sizing is of utmost importance! Ill-fitted compression socks can cause discomfort and inconvenience. Compression stockings of a larger size would mean that the compression that you are getting is lower than what the doctor has recommended.
It could also result in slippage of the socks while walking. Small sizes in compression socks can have the opposite effect and can be dangerous! Not only will it be harder to put on, but it could also worsen your blood circulation.
Based on your skin type and the fabric of the compression socks, you could experience itching and drying of the skin. This concern is common but most frequent with low-quality synthetic fabrics and if you have sensitive, dry and allergy-prone skin.
Moisturize your skin at night after removing your compression stockings. This will keep them hydrated and minimize itching. Switching to cotton blended compression socks is also a great solution.
Wearing and taking off
Compression stockings are difficult to put on and take off, especially if you wear a higher grade of compression stockings or have less strength and dexterity.
Using rubber gloves can prevent tears and rips in the garment while donning and doffing and provide the required grip to adjust the stocking over the leg. You can also use donning aids and accessories such as:
Compression socks are specially designed for venous and lymphatic conditions. However, they are not just medical products! Everyone can use them to maintain leg health by boosting blood flow in the legs.
Compression socks are generally entirely safe but consult your doctor if you have a medical condition.
Frequently Asked Questions
Are Graduated Compression Socks Better?
Compression socks are a great way to boost blood circulation and prevent pain and swelling, especially if your genes or lifestyle put you at risk of developing venous conditions such as varicose veins and deep vein thrombosis.