Varicose veins. They can be a pain — literally. And this pain comes in several flavours: achy or heavy legs; burning, throbbing, cramping. And when you sit or stand for long periods of time, the discomfort can increase.
Though they can appear in other parts of your body, varicose veins usually occur in your legs. But what are they? Well, varicose veins are swollen and misshapen veins just below the surface of your skin. They’re actually quite common.
Veins have an important job to do: to transport blood throughout your body to your heart. Your heart, in turn, pumps the blood to your lungs to get oxygen. This oxygen-rich blood is then pumped through arteries.
Now, like traffic on a motorway, blood must flow in one direction, away from the heart. To make sure this happens, veins have one-way valves.
Varicose veins are caused when these valves become damaged, which can cause blood to pool and veins to swell. Valve damage can be caused by factors such as pregnancy, old age, obesity and lack of movement.
Yes, they can. Compression socks work by applying pressure to your legs, ankles and feet. This pressure reduces the swelling in your veins, which increases blood flow and helps push the blood up your body. The effect of this compression is a reduction in the prominence of varicose veins and pain relief.
Compression socks are made from special fabric that applies pressure when you wear them. They are available in several levels of compression, which is known as millimetres of mercury (mmHg).
The most effective compression socks have pressure that is graduated. This means that the pressure is greatest at your ankles and lessons towards your knees. Socks with uniform compression are available, but they aren’t as efficient for pushing blood up your body. They are also less comfortable because they are more restrictive.
For the best results, you should wear full-length socks, and put them on at the beginning of your day and take them off when you go to bed.
Apart from pain reduction, compression socks can help you live a more active lifestyle, too. After all, it’s pretty tough following your doctor’s orders to get plenty of exercise when it’s painful to do so.