What Are Compression Socks?
A Beginner’s Guide

Many people have heard of compression socks, but how many of us really know how they work? Can they be worn like regular socks? Are they just used for travel or to help reduce varicose veins? You may be surprised to learn how much your life could benefit from regularly wearing compression socks and stockings.

In this beginner’s guide, we will look at how these socks work, how to choose the right ones, and who will most likely to benefit from them. We’ll also take a look at some of the far-reaching benefits of sock wearing depending on your needs.

man holding his knee

Do I Need Compression Socks?

Before we delve deeper into our guide, it’s worth checking whether or not you may benefit from compression socks. Essentially, these socks are designed to help with general circulation. They help to compress your legs and feet by pushing (what could be) stagnant fluids up and out to elsewhere in your body. Note, this pushing is a good thing! It means that swelling, aches and pains and regular strains could be reduced with regular wear.

We will look closely at some of the main benefits of compression aids later on in our guide. But for now, let’s consider if any of the following applies to you:

  • Are you regularly on your feet, as a result of your job or otherwise?
  • Do you suffer from varicose veins or swelling of the legs and feet?
  • Are you pregnant?
  • Do you regularly take part in vigorous sports and activities?
  • Are you diabetic?
  • Do you travel via air regularly?
  • Are you covering from an injury?
standing passengers in a train

If you answered yes to any of the above, then compression socks may help to ease your aches, pains and help to improve overall circulation.

Even if you don’t suffer from poor circulation, wearing compression socks can help to reduce fatigue in your legs. This is particularly worth considering if you are on your feet a lot or are likely to undertake regular exercise. Even professional athletes wear compression aids to support circulation!

So now you know you need them, but how do they actually work?

How Compression Socks Work

It’s all to do with the way your blood flows, and the concept is relatively simple: Firstly, compression stockings and socks gently squeeze the walls of your leg veins, as well as your leg tissue. This then helps blood recirculate and flow back towards your heart.

So if you suffer from poor circulation, your blood can ‘pool’ in an area. For many people, this means blood collects in their legs and feet. This can lead to regular discomfort, swelling and varicose veins.

These problems can occur as a result of a lack of movement, vein weakness or general circulation issues. They can also arise during pregnancy, where swelling feet can be commonplace.

Even if you don’t suffer from poor circulation, wearing compression socks can help to reduce fatigue in your legs. This is particularly worth considering if you are on your feet a lot or are likely to undertake regular exercise. Even professional athletes wear compression aids to support circulation!

 

TXG Opaque thigh high compression stockings showing blood flow

Can Socks Help My Specific Needs?

As mentioned, compression socks and stockings can benefit a wide range of people. However, the benefits will vary from person to person. Let’s see just how.

Air Travellers

Those who regularly travel by plane may be at risk of deep vein thrombosis (DVT). Socks offering compression are therefore recommended to long haul and frequent air travellers. Long periods of inactivity in the air can bring on vein problems and swelling of the legs. With moderate pressure, specialised graduated compression socks can help to keep healthy blood flow. There are also different styles of travel socks you can purchase.

Diabetics

People living with Diabetes may be at risk of oedema and DVT. That means that regularly wearing compression aids can help to pressurise your feet and calves to prevent swelling and sensitivity. Ensuring you wear socks properly can prevent you from developing diabetic ulcers in your feet, too. Padded compression stockings can help to reduce friction and prevent ulcers from forming, which can lead to severe problems for many people with diabetes.

Pregnant Women

During pregnancy, your body produces up to an extra 50% more fluids than normal. This puts expectant mothers at risk of oedema, which means fluid can build up in the ankles, legs and feet. Compression socks can be used during pregnancy to help reduce swelling and cramping and can also help to stop varicose veins from spreading. Your veins will dilate during pregnancy due to new pressures placed on your body, meaning they will need all the help they can get!

Active People

Plenty of active people benefit from these socks as they work to promote healthy blood flow. While you’re working or on your feet, all day, wearing compression socks can help to prevent fatigue in your lower extremities. If you regularly put pressure on your legs and feet to perform to a vigorous extent, you’re going to need to give them a little support!

Can everyone wear them?

If you have a medical condition, we recommend talking to your doctor about whether you should use compression socks and what type of compression level is right for you.

How to Choose Compression Socks

The right socks are based on simple measurements and the amount of compression you need. There are socks which stretch up to your knees and others which stretch up to your thighs. There are even some socks which stretch right up to around your waist!

For knee-high socks:

  • Measure around your ankle, just above the bone, to get your ankle dimensions.
  • Measure around the widest part of your calf.
  • Measure from the bend in the back of your knee to the floor.
  • Do make sure you get as precise a reading as possible. It’s important that you find socks which fit well!
  • Measure early in the morning if you can, as this will likely be when you are at least risk of swelling.

For thigh-high socks and stockings:

  • Measure your ankle as stated above, as well as your calf.
  • Around three inches down from your buttock crease, measure around your thigh.
  • Measure down from your buttock crease to the floor.
  • The same advice as above applies – measure early, and go precise.

Once you have your size data to hand, you will know which socks to look for.

But what about compression level?  Socks are arranged depending on the pressure you require.  This is measured in millimetres of Mercury, or mmHg.  Different brands may use different terms such as Class, Grade, Mild, Moderate, Firm to describe the compression level, however, all reputable brands will include the mmHg level on their labelling. A general guide to levels of mmHg and your potential needs may be found as follows:

  • 10-15 mmHg – for mild aching and fatigue in the legs. Can also be used to reduce swelling and varicose and spider veins.
  • 15-20 mmHg – for moderate pain. This level of compression is perfect for post-surgery.  This pressure is generally used in travel socks and can prevent swelling and vein problems as above.  They are also ideal for use during pregnancy.
  • 20-30 mmHg – for firm compression. Lymphedema sufferers and those at risk of suffering severe varicose veins will benefit.  These socks are also perfect post-surgery, and they can help to prevent DVT.
  • 30-40 mmHg – for super-firm compression. Socks at this pressure are advisable for anyone having suffered from foot or legs ulcers, or those currently experiencing them.  These socks can be used for severe cases of oedema and for post-surgery and traumatic swelling.  They can also stave off DVT.
  • 40-50 mmHg – the highest compression for acute DVT, lymphedema and chronic venous insufficiency.

Compression socks can also be arranged by shoe size.  However, it is most important to take into account the above measurements and pressure guidance.

a man stretching his leg

How and When to Wear Them

Socks should be worn smoothly on the legs without any wrinkles or folds. It’s important to make sure you wear the right size of sock or stocking so that you can feel the benefits they bring.

Depending on your needs, you can wear socks all day if you wish. This should be considered if you suffer from vein-related problems, or if you need to wear them following surgery. They should generally be worn when you are at work or are active, and taken off when you are at rest.

What’s Right for You?

Whether or not you suffer from circulation problems, pressurised socks can help to soothe fatigue and tiredness. Many people seek travel socks for long or regular air journeys, while others seek advice from their doctors. However, even if you aren’t at risk or if you don’t fit into the above groups in our guide, socks may still help you.

Since there are many different types of socks for many different purposes, and clearly aren’t the same as your everyday footwear, we hope this guide was helpful so you can start to reap from their benefits!
If you’re ready for some much needed relief, browse TXG’s wide ranges of pregnancy socks, travel socks and sportswear. And feel free to call our team for advice today on 0800 894 769.

Please note: The information provided here is for general information only and is not intended to act as medical advice. We advise anyone interested in this subject to seek qualified, professional advice.

 

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