What Compression Stockings Do I Need? Types of Compression Socks and Stockings
Compression socks and stockings have become hugely popular. Not just a fad, they offer huge potential benefits to your leg health. Whether you are pregnant with swollen feet, have some pesky varicose veins, are recovering from surgery, or are an athlete who wants compression socks to boost their performance, there is a lot to be gained from wearing compression stockings. The question is, which type of compression sock is best for you? If you are asking yourself, what compression stockings do I need, keep reading. There are quite a few different types of compression socks available - each suitable for different applications. In this guide we look at the differences in compression stockings to help you decide which is best for you.
Types of Compression Stockings and Socks
Compression socks and stockings can be categorised into two main types. These are known as graduated compression stockings and thrombo-embolic deterrent hose, also known as TED hose or anti-embolism stockings.
TED hose are for post surgery recovery and lengthy periods of immobilization where dramatic assistance with blood circulation is required. Graduated compression socks or stockings on the other hand, are far more common and are suitable for a range of applications. They are commonly used against swelling, varicose or spider veins, DVT, by pregnant women and by those who spend a lot of time on their feet.
The Length of Compression Stockings
As far as the length goes, compression socks usually come as either knee length (where the top sits above the calf but below the knee) or thigh length. It is also possible to get short compression socks which provide compression to the ankle area only, for example for plantar fasciitis and also full-length pantyhose compression stockings.
Deciding which length compression socks are most appropriate for you really comes down to the reason behind why you need compression socks in the first place. The most commonly used length of compression stockings is knee length. This is because compression socks are most commonly used for swelling of the lower legs, by runners or athletes who want a performance boost, for those with varicose or spider veins, by pregnant women and by people who stand all day at work, for example nurses. In these cases, knee length compression is generally sufficient.
A longer length is generally required when there is a risk of DVT or those with severe cases of varicose or spider veins. People who have dramatically reduced circulation due to, for example, surgery recovery, or extended periods of immobilization, are more likely to require longer length compression stockings as they provide increased circulation promotion over a greater area.
The Strength of Compression
Compression socks are generally categorised into four main groups of compression strength:
8-15 mmHg: mild compression
This compression strength is suitable for those seeking relief for their tired and aching leg muscles. It will promote rejuvenation and reduce fatigue for those who work on their feet or sit down for extended time periods. It will help reduce minor swelling in the feet and ankles.
15-20 mmHg: moderate compression
The next compression strength up, this category is well suited for those with more severe cases of tired, aching and heavy feeling legs. It will also help to reduce swelling of the legs, feet and ankles. It is suitable for the prevention of and relief of minor varicose and spider veins. Another popular application of this compression strength is to prevent DVT during long haul flights.
20-30 mmHg: firm compression
This firm compression level is for more severe cases of varicose and spider veins. It is often prescribed as a post-surgery treatment to also aid in the prevention of veins appearing. It is suitable for the treatment of lymphedema as well as venous ulcers and post-thrombotic syndrome. This compression strength does take some getting used to and may feel uncomfortable at first.
30-40 mmHg: extra firm compression
At the upper end of the compression spectrum this category is suitable for severe cases of the above conditions. We do not recommend using this level of compression without first seeking the advice of a medical professional.
What Compression Stockings Do I Need?
When deciding which compression stockings or compression socks are the most appropriate for you, there a few questions you need to ask yourself:
What is the purpose of the compression? Why do I need compression stockings?
If you have just had surgery and are expecting a long recovery period in which you will be very immobile, or expect a long period of immobilization for other reasons, you are likely to need TED hose. If you are mobile but require a boost of blood circulation to help with a condition such as feet swelling, varicose or spider veins, to prevent DVT, or are an athlete who needs compression to boost their performance, you will need graduated compression stockings.
What is the area that requires compression?
Similar to the reason for using compression, the length of compression garments you require depends on the area in need. The most common length is knee length compression stockings, however, if the thigh area also requires compression then thigh length will be more suitable.
What compression strength do you need?
The last question you want to ask yourself is how serious is the condition, or how much compression do you need. You can use the guide above to give you an indication. In most cases, 15 to 20 mmHg or 20 to 30 mmHg will be the most suitable. If you have never used compression socks or stockings before, is highly recommended that you seek the advice of a medical professional. This is especially true if you plan to wear a stronger compression strength such as 30 - 40 mmHg.
Transitioning into higher compression
One other factor to consider when deciding which compression socks you should be wearing is whether or not you want to transition into a stronger compression by first wearing a lesser compression. If you have never worn compression socks before, they may at first feel very uncomfortable. This is especially true if you are jumping straight into 20 - 30 mmHg or 30 - 40 mmHg. It is common in these cases to first wear lesser compression to adjust to the feeling.
If you have never used compression stockings before it is highly recommended that you seek the advice of a medical professional. In rare cases, compression stockings or socks can be unsuitable. So it is always best to be safe. We hope that this post about the different types of compression socks and stockings has been informative. If you are still questioning, what compression stockings do I need, feel free to leave a comment below.