Best Compression Stockings For Varicose Veins Guide
In this guide we take you through a step by step process to understanding how compression stockings can help varicose veins. We explain what causes varicose veins and spider veins, how compression technology works, its role in treatment of varicose veins, and finally how to choose the best compression stockings for varicose veins.
What Causes Varicose Veins In Legs?
Varicose veins are bulging veins which can be seen through the skin. They are usually blue or red in colour and are often raised from the skin. They are most common in the legs, especially the thighs and calves. Spider veins are very similar. They are usually smaller and look similar to spider webs.
Under normal healthy conditions, blood is pumped through the body by the heart. Blood leaves the heart in the arteries and brings oxygen and other nutrients to all areas of the body. This blood then returns to the heart via the veins. This flow of blood back to the heart is assisted by the contraction and relaxation of muscles, which essentially helps to push the blood towards the heart.
In the legs, blood must flow against the force of gravity. The squeezing of the leg muscles helps to force the blood upwards to the heart. To ensure that blood does not flow backwards down the veins due to the push of gravity, there are valves in the veins which act as stoppers. They allow blood to flow through towards the heart, but stop the blood flowing backwards.
When these valves no longer function to their maximum capacity, blood is allowed back down through the veins. This is known as venous insufficiency. When the blood starts to collect and pool in the veins, they begin to bulge and this is what we call varicose veins.
Varicose vein are most common in the legs because of the extra pressure from the force of gravity. In other areas of the body, the weakened valves may still be able to prevent the backwards flow of blood. In the legs however, the extra force from gravity can be too much for the valves to handle.
How Do Compression Stockings Help Varicose Veins?
Compression stockings are an effective means of treating the symptoms of varicose and spider veins. They work by promoting the circulation of blood in the legs. That is, they assist in forcing the blood to flow back up to the heart.
Most compression stockings are graduated, which means they have a decreasing strength of compression up the leg. By being tightest at the ankle, and having reducing compression strength up the leg, the blood is guided upwards away from the lower legs. The compression also squeezes on the veins which provides less area through which the blood can flow. This forces the rate of blood flow to increase.
These two effects work together to increase the flow of blood out of the legs to the heart, which in turn encourages freshly oxygenated blood to flow down from the heart in the arteries to replace the removed blood.
Compression stockings are able to help the body push the blood against the force of gravity back to the heart. In doing so, it is increasingly difficult for blood to make its way back down through the veins. This reduces the likelihood of developing varicose veins.
Compression not only helps to increase blood circulation and therefore reduce any varicose veins from appearing, but it also helps to reduce any existing varicose veins. By squeezing on the skin, the stockings are able to prevent any veins close to the surface of the skin from expanding. This eliminates the possibility of blood pooling and causing the veins to bulge.
It is very important to point out that compression stockings are not able to cure or eliminate varicose veins. They can help to relieve the symptoms and reduce the effects and degree of varicose veins. However they cannot treat the underlying causes of the venous insufficiency which is causing the varicose veins to form in the first place.
Types Of Compression Socks For Varicose Veins
You may have heard compression stockings for varicose veins referred to by a few different names, such as:
- compression socks for varicose veins
- pressure stockings for varicose veins
- medical stockings for varicose veins
- support stockings for varicose veins
- support socks for varicose veins
These terms are used interchangeably and are described to use the same garment.
There are a few different types of compression socks for varicose veins. They vary in two main ways: by length and by the strength of compression.
The length of compression socks vary, however the most common lengths are knee-length and thigh-length. Compression socks also come as ankle length, although these are not appropriate for varicose veins. They also come as full-length pantyhose.
Determining which length is most appropriate for you really depends on the area in which your varicose veins are developing. They are most common in the lower legs as this is the area that has the most gravity to work against, and so knee-length compression stockings for varicose veins are the most popular. However if the veins are bulging in the thigh area, then thigh-length will be more appropriate.
The strength of compression stockings for varicose veins varies from as little as 8 mmHg to 40 mmHg. Expressed in millimetres of mercury (mmHg), the strength of compression socks is generally a range due to the graduated compression. For example, compression socks with compression 15-20mmHg will have a compression strength of 20 mmHg around the ankle, and 15 mmHg at the top of the sock.
The four main categories of compression strength are: 8-15 mmHg, 15-20mmHg, 20-30mmHg and 30-40mmHg. For varicose veins the most effective strengths will be 15-20mmHg and 20-30mmHg. For anything stronger than this, a doctor's prescription will be required. 8-15mmHg will have little effect on varicose veins, and should only be worn to transition into higher compression. Wearing compression socks can take some getting used to, and in some cases jumping straight to 15-20mmHg or 20-30 mmHg can be uncomfortable. In this scenario it make sense to wear 8-15 mmHg for a couple of weeks to become used to the feeling.
How To Benefit Most From The Best Compression Socks For Varicose Veins
Compression stockings should never feel overly tight. An adjustment period is normal, however if after a few days they still feel very tight then you should reduce the compression strength. They should feel snug, but not tight.
For best results against varicose veins, you should wear your compression stockings all day, starting as soon as you wake up. They will not provide any effect when they are not worn, so you will want to wear them as much as possible. Wearing them at night while you sleep is however not recommend unless your doctor has advised you otherwise. While you sleep you are horizontal, which means the flow of blood no longer has to work against gravity. This makes wearing compression socks while you sleep less necessary.
To ensure continuity of compression and best results, it is a good idea to have a second pair of compression stockings for when you need to wash. Also, compression stockings will start to lose their compression after a few months, and so if you are wearing them for extended periods, you will need to replace them every 4-6 months.
Compression stockings are not suitable for everyone. If you have never worn them before, or are in doubt, it is highly recommended that you seek the advice of a medical professional before wearing.
Best Compression Stockings For Varicose Veins
Compression socks technology has significantly increased in recent years. This is in large part thanks to the athletics industry which has encouraged the development of compression technology.
While in the past, compression stockings looked like something your grandmother would wear (and let's be honest, some still do), these days there are brands selling fashionable compression socks for nurses. If you’re thinking that maybe their effectiveness or quality is reduced, you would be wrong. The technology has come to the point that a range of fabrics can be used to provide effective compression. This means you can not only benefit from increased style, but also from other desirable features such as breathability and moisture wicking.
Better yet, now you can purchase many of these brands in the convenience of your home. In fact, the best compression stockings for varicose veins are now all available to buy on Amazon.
So which are the best compression socks for varicose veins?
For this you need to consider a few factors:
First of all, which length compression garment do you need? Do you require knee length or thigh-length?
Which compression strength is most appropriate? If you are unsure, check out this page about types of compression stockings. You will most likely require either 15-20mmHg or 20-30mmHg.
If you prefer fashionable compression socks, there are two brands which you will love. Both Sockwell and VIM & VIGR sell some really stylish compression socks, which not only look great but also provide excellent quality compression. These are our top picks from each:
If you prefer skin or black colored compression socks, or need thigh length, we recommend you try Truform. They are well known and reputable in the compression garment industry. This is our top pick from the brand:
Over To You
Have you used compression socks for varicose veins? How did you find them? Did you see an improvement in their condition? If you have any further questions about the best compression stockings for varicose veins, please leave them below.