Let’s Talk about Compression Stockings: What are They and How do They Help?

When people hear the phrase, “Do you wear compression stockings?” they usually run the other way or simply ignore the question.  Providers will suggest patients wear compression stockings to help improve venous circulation, decrease swelling, slow down the progression of varicose veins and help reduce pain, discomfort and other leg symptoms that patients experience.  You may then have the question, “What are varicose veins – Do I have them?” Varicose veins are highly visible veins located just under the surface of the skin. These veins occur when blood collects behind the valves and produces reflux (backing up) of blood that reduces the blood flow out of the legs and back to the heart.

Roman soldiers often used to wrap their legs in leather straps to improve circulation during marches and battles.  Compression stockings today are more tolerable than years before. They are designed to provide consistent pressure in the legs from ankle to thigh, thereby increasing blood flow out of legs and back up to the heart, working against gravity.  The stockings exert more localized pressure, which provides an extra squeeze that helps promote proper blood flow and reduce uncomfortable leg symptoms.

There are varying types of stockings that exert different types of pressure. I always tell patients that the smaller the number, the looser they are and the higher the number, the tighter they are.  Medical grade stockings are rated at 20-30 mmHg and come in knee or thigh high, open or closed toe, sports socks and sleeves, even some with zippers that are easier to place. Needless to say, there is practically a style for everyone so do not get discouraged if the first one you try does not work for you.

It is very important to get properly sized by a medical provider and to rule out any peripheral arterial disease, which already dangerously limits blood flow.  Compression stockings are highly recommended to reduce the risk of blood clots during long flights and after surgery, particularly with knee and hip surgery. Stockings should be worn during the day only and removed before bedtime, as intermittent sitting and standing throughout the day are more likely to cause circulation problems.

Compression stockings may not eliminate varicose veins, but they can slow the process and the associated symptoms of leg pain, cramps, fatigued, heaviness and swelling.  Please feel free to call or stop by any one of the Vein Clinics of Hawaii locations for a free vein screening or get fitted for the next fashionable trending compression stockings.

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