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  • Writer's pictureStaff

Are compression socks for everyone?

Designed to help prevent and control serious medical conditions, compression socks are becoming the sock du jour for anyone looking for better comfort of the legs and feet with attractive colors and designs that make them a medical fashion statement. But are compression socks for everyone?

Whether you're traveling on a long distance flight or just finished an intensive workout, compression socks can provide relief for muscle aches, inflammation and foot and leg pain. They can work to reduce swelling and help with lymphatic drainage in the muscles and improve stagnant blood flow. For post- surgical patients and people with certain health conditions they can help control edema and reduce the risk of developing blood clots.

Once known as compression hose or compression stockings, they are specially made, snug-fitting, stretchy socks that gently squeeze your leg. Graduated compression or pressure stockings are tighter around the ankle and get looser as they move up your leg. Compression sleeves are just the tube part, without the foot. When buying compression socks, you'll need to measure your calf and ankle circumference, not your shoe size. It is recommended that you consult with a physician about what pressure rating is best for you. Compression socks should fit tightly but not too tight that they become painful, cut off circulation or impede mobility.

Some athletes wear compression socks and sleeves on their legs and arms believing the support will help prevent tissue damage and help their muscles recover quicker. There are mixed reviews on whether this is so. The majority of the research has not found any statistically significant difference in improved sports performance in athletes wearing compression socks although some athletes are convinced it works for them. However others evidence that compression socks/sleeves may offer a good recovery aid for some athletes under the right circumstances. 

Ventilated panels, breathable anti-bacterial fabrics, extra cushioning and attractive patterns and colors make today's compression socks a far cry from your grandparent's Jobst stockings for varicose veins. High end companies market them as your go to dress sock that can be worn "from the office, to a wedding, to post workout".

If you are using compression hose on the advice of a health care professional be sure to contact your provider if swelling persists or to discuss other options if you are having trouble wearing the stockings. Although the application of compression stockings can appear simple, inappropriately worn stockings have the potential to cause significant problems. If something doesn't look or feel right, discontinue wearing and seek professional advice.

The pressure in compression socks is measured in millimeters of mercury (mmHg).

  • A mild pressure rating would be 10-20mmHg or 15-20mmHg.  

  • A firmer pressure rating would be 20-30mmHg. 

  • Medically grade custom-fit compression hose prescribed by a physician would go up in numbers, such as 20 to 30 or 30 to 40.

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