What are compression socks? Who should be wearing them, and do they really work? Maybe most importantly, where can you buy cheap compression socks?
Compression Socks: What’s the Point?
Basically, the point of wearing compression socks is to help decrease swelling in the legs. By putting a little bit of pressure on your legs, it helps the veins in the legs to work properly.
So why are compression socks knit in a special pattern? It’s not just for decoration. The special structure of a quality compression stocking is actually designed to massage your veins when you move your legs or walk. By the variated texture rubbing against your skin, the veins are stimulated.
That’s why it’s important to wear stockings that are in good condition, even new. Once they get stretched out or have holes worn in them, they don’t massage as well and should be thrown out. (Of course, they also make great dust rags!)
What Are Compression Stockings Used For?
Sometimes, compression stockings are used to relieve symptoms of varicose veins – they won’t cure the problem, but they may help you feel more comfortable. They may also help with poor circulation, aiding veins and capillaries in pulling blood up out of the feet back to the heart.
Certain athletes also wear compression socks as part of their uniform. This “medical hosiery” is thought to help limit damage to muscles as well as improving blood circulation. In particular, it’s important for runners to keep blood flowing when they’re sitting in a chair between races, and light lower leg pressure may help.
According to Competitor.com, “Compression gear may reduce muscle damage by physically holding the muscle in place and preventing it from shaking back and forth with every stride.”
Compression socks come in many different colors.
When do you wear them? Compression socks should be put on right away in the morning, while you’re still in bed. Once you get up, your legs will start to swell, so it’s easier to get them on first thing in the day. Generally, they’re taken off before going to bed, although always follow medical advice (which this article is not!).
Wondering how to put them on properly? Check out this handout from UWHealth. The most important thing is to not ruin them by tearing them.
How to wash compression socks can also be tricky. There’s special soap made for washing compression stockings, like Mediven Medi-Care Wash or Jolastic Washing Solution, and you should wash them after each day’s wear. Either wash them in a machine on a delicate setting in a lingerie bag, or by hand in warm water. Squeeze or air-dry them after washing – never put them in a dryer!
So where do you get them? Fortunately, they’re not much more expensive than normal socks, especially considering the amount of material. Cheap compression socks are readily available online.
Are you an athlete who’s used compression socks in your running or training? Comment below – I’d love to hear from you! Or maybe you’ve found them to help with a medical condition like plantar fasciitis – let’s hear your story!
As always, I have no medical training and this article is certainly not medical advice. If you are experiencing foot, ankle, or leg pain, talk to your doctor.
Image via Flickr used under CC License.