Health & Fitness

Compression Socks for Fitness, Varicose Veins and Pregnancy

Designed to be a handy tool for circulation and blood flow throughout the legs, compression socks, once worn by old ladies are now back in style! Compression socks sound exactly like its purpose, which is to compress your lower legs so as to maintain blood flow and reduce discomfort and swelling. 

To reduce pain and provide a re-energizing effect, you may find that compression socks are a helpful accessory to wear for certain jobs that have you up on your feet for a large chunk of the day, for example, nurses have used these for years, and those that run/hike or participate in other athletic activities have also sworn by it. This is also fantastic for those who have to stand a lot for travel. 

Pregnant mothers can also find comfort with compression socks to relieve the swelling that goes hand-in-hand with pregnancy, although as with most things during pregnancy, please consult your doctor before giving them a try, to make sure they’re right for you.

Compression Socks for Fitness

Compression socks promotes recovery and reduces the heavy legs sensation. The benefits include promoting recovery without even realising it, reducing muscular soreness after sports and the stimulation of blood flow. 

Compression therapy has made the leap from medical treatment for varicose veins and pregnancy to athletic gear must-have! Compression gear can now be seen on professional athletes and recreation runners, from compression socks/ leggings to compression arm bands. 

Why does it work: Building muscle tissue actually involves tearing it slightly. As your body rebuilds the microscopic tears, the muscle becomes denser and stronger. You can help this process move faster with improved blood circulation through compression socks and it aids your body’s natural muscle building processes. Sometimes, you end up tearing your muscles too much and runners experience shin strains or splints which is an acute pain right behind your shins. In these cases, compression socks can be a valuable addition to your treatment program.

Compression socks will help you perform better during workouts and recover faster afterwards as compression therapy is only helpful for injured or sore muscles in the feet and legs. Thanks to the combination of gravity and your heart working overtime during your workout, muscles in your feet and legs are more likely to suffer swelling and poor circulation after exercise. While many people may think that pain causes swelling, it’s actually the other way around. The swelling causes the pain when the pain decreases so does the swelling.

A Graduated Compression design, the compression gets tighter the farther away it is from your heart and that way, the blood gets an extra boost against gravity helping you avoid all the painful swelling. 

Since the heart is tasked with pumping oxygen-rich blood to your muscles and limbs through your arteries. Once your cells use up the oxygen and nutrients in the blood, the deoxygenated blood and other waste products head into the veins, and are then funneled back into the heart. After the deoxygenated blood has made its way back to the heart, it’s once again oxygenated from the lungs making the same process starts over.

The more oxygen your cells get, the better they’re going to function. Compression socks help circulate blood more efficiently through the legs, which gets blood back to your heart faster. The faster the blood is flowing, the better the circulation.

Which compression socks to buy: Men’s CEP Progressive+ Run Compression Socks 2.0 and the 2XU Striped Compression Socks. 

Compression Socks for Varicose Veins 

Compression socks will compress your lower legs so as to maintain blood flow and reduce discomfort and swelling. These are mainly prescribed to individuals who experience lower blood flow in the legs, causing varicose veins (swollen and enlarged veins) and lymphoedema (when your body’s tissues swell up). 

Located just under the surface of the skin, varicose veins are hard to miss. Those who suffer from painful varicose veins are often nurses or workers who stand for a very long time. Varicose veins appear on the legs when blood collects behind the small valves in a person’s veins instead of flowing smoothly back to the heart. They are more common in the legs and feet, because blood returning to the heart has farther to travel.

According to a study from 2018: Acute Effects of Graduated Elastic Compression Stockings in Patients with Symptomatic Varicose Veins: A Randomised Double Blind Placebo Controlled Trial, the research found that wearing compression stockings with pressures of 18 to 21 mm Hg or millimeters of mercury for just a week helped to reduce aches and pain associated with varicose veins, compared to normal stockings which are also prescribed. 

However there are also surgeries that can be done to remove the varicose veins. 

What compression socks to buy: According to Bustle, the best ones for those suffering from pain by spending too much time on their feet, is the Go2 Compression Sock. 

Go2 Compression Socks has received hundreds of positive reviews from nurses across the country for their 20-30 manometers of graduated pressure as well as their panoply of bright designs. Extra cushioning on the sole adds bonus comfort. 

You can also go for prescription compression stockings. These exert the greatest amount of pressure, and are fitted by a specialist to ensure that they are effective but not so tight that they affect a person’s circulation.

Compression Socks for Pregnancy

Designed with graduated compression and extra space in the toes, specifically for pregnant women, the best compression socks would be the Fytto 1020 compression socks. 

It features a roomier toe box, which is a key asset during pregnancy to help keep those swollen feet comfortable while still forcing blood volume upward. They offer true graduated compression to effectively revitalize the body and reduce leg discomfort and swelling due to poor blood circulation, and cuffing that provides compression to the base of the knee without being too constricting, reducing potential skin marks due to tightness.

How to use Compression Socks

Levels of compression socks

Compression socks or stockings can be classified into:

  • Over the Counter 15-20 mmHg
  • Medical Grade Class I 20-30 mmHg
  • Medical Grade Class II 30-40 mmHg
  • Medical Grade Class III 40-50 mmHg

Compression socks or stockings have varying degrees of numbers to indicate how much graduated compression the garment has. These include 15-20 mmHg (over the counter), 20-30 mmHg (medical class 1), 30-40 mmHg (medical class 2) and 40-50 mmHg (medical class 3). There are other levels of compression, however these are the most commonly used. 

Keep in mind that compression stockings such as CEP, Juzo, Mediven and Sigvaris all graduate the compression in their compression stockings and socks.  A “graduated compression” will ensure that the compression is strongest at the ankle and gets lighter as you move up the leg. In order to do this, a very special way of knitting a compression stocking allows circulation to improve up and out of the legs. (There would be detrimental effects if the graduated compression went downwards to your feet instead of going away or above your feet.) Not all compression stocking manufacturers properly graduated compression, so make it a point to wear reputable brands such as CEP, Juzo, Mediven and Sigvaris.

Numbers ranging from “20-30 mmHg”, means that the amount of compression will not fall below 20 mmHg and not exceed 30 mmHg. The unit of measurement is identified as“millimeters of mercury,” which is a measurement of pressure, commonly used in blood pressure.

Using compression socks

Compression socks are to be put on as soon as you wake up and before you get out of bed. These stockings/socks are worn all day to keep your legs from swelling. Take them off before you go to bed or before you take a bath or shower. Ideally you should sleep with your feet above the level of your heart to keep your legs from swelling while you are sleeping. 

Stockings must also be put on by working them slowly over the heel, then up the leg. Rubber kitchen gloves can be worn to provide a better grip. Try not to have wrinkles in your stockings as it can hurt your skin. You may need a special piece of equipment to help get them on and off and take off any jewelry that may snag them when you are putting them on.

How to apply compression socks:

  • Turn your stocking or sock inside out.
  • Put your foot into the stocking and slide it in until your toe and heel are fully in place.
  • Pull the top of the stocking up and over your ankle and calf until it is in place.

Remember that you are to be given at least 2 stockings or socks, or 2 pairs if you’re wearing them on both legs. This means you can wear 1 stocking (or a pair) while the other is being washed. 

You can hand wash your socks at about 40C and dry them away from direct heat. Your GP will monitor your progress. Remember to have your legs measured again and your socks replaced every 3 to 6 months.

Side Effects of Wearing Compression Socks

As compression stockings are meant to compress you, they can be difficult to put on. The legs should be clean and dry. Which means that you need to hold off putting any moisturizers or you can apply it ahead of time before you put on compression socks or compression stockings. 

Using compression socks can have side effects, including:

  • broken skin
  • skin irritation
  • discomfort
  • temporary dents in the skin

Stockings or socks that are wrinkled, worn incorrectly, or the wrong size will end up being detrimental to your skin. When circulation is stopped by a condition such as peripheral neuropathy, which can damage the nerves in the legs, a person may not be able to tell whether stockings are too tight or falling down.

You may experience negative side effects if you wear stockings for too long. Remove the compression socks or stockings every day and check the legs and feet for signs of damage or irritation. It may help to use a long-handled mirror or a mirror placed on the ground. If new areas of irritation occur, contact a doctor.

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