Medical compression hosiery in different colors. Isolated on white.

Compression stockings are often recommended to people who suffer from achy, swollen legs. They aid the body in moving blood up the leg against the pull of gravity and while being worn, are often a conservative treatment option to increase blood flow to the lower limbs. Sufferers of chronic venous diseases, such as varicose veins and spider veins, are the main candidates for compression therapy. If you are thinking of using stockings in your treatment, there are some things you should consider to get the maximum benefits.

Graduated compression

Most stockings are graduated, which means they have a decreasing strength of compression up the leg. By being tightest at the ankle and reducing compression strength up the leg, compression stockings help guide the blood upward and away from the lower leg. This compression also squeezes the veins and creates less area through which blood can flow, forcing the rate of blood flow to increase.

 Compression levels

Support stockings are available in multiple compression support levels. Most commonly used compression

support stockings come in mild (8-15 mmHg), medium (15-20 mmHg), firm (20-30 mmHg) and x-firm (30-40 mmHg) gradient compression levels:

  • Mild compression (8-15mmHg) provides relief and minimizes tired and achy legs.
  • Medium compression (15-20mmHg) provides relief for minor to moderate varicose and spider veins.
  • Firm compression (20-30mmHg) provides relief for moderate to severe varicose veins (helpful during pregnancy).
  • X-Firm compression (30-40mmHg) provides relief for severe varicose veins.

Dr. Frank Ferrier, of VeinInnovations in Atlanta says, “The best compression stockings are well-fitting and are the proper compression strength. The most important factor is that the compression stocking is measured and fitted properly. For most varicose veins, 20-30 mmHg of compression is enough, but for some more advanced venous insufficiency and lymphedema, 30-40 mmHg is required.”

You’ll want to consult with your doctor for recommendations before choosing a compression level.

Sizing stockings

 To fit you for medical grade compression stockings, the doctor will usually measure your ankle circumference, your calf circumference and the distance between your heel and knee, according to Compressionstockings.com. Ankle and calf measurements should be taken in the morning, since your legs will swell the longer you are upright. Medical supply stores may help with sizing if you can’t have a professional fitting done.

When to wear stockings

Compression stockings work best when you put them on in the morning, before you are up and walking around. This will help prevent blood pooling. If you wait until later in the day to put them on, after you have been sitting or standing for a while, your blood will already have started to pool in your legs. This can make it ever harder to get the stockings on and may make them less effective in helping with your symptoms.

Dr. Ferrier says most insurance companies require patients to wear compression stockings prior to treatment as a conservative measure. “After you meet the stocking requirement, you can have additional treatment recommended by VeinInnovations, and your insurance is likely to cover it. While compression stockings make the legs feel better when they are on, when removed, the same symptoms are likely to occur. Treatment of the greater saphenous vein is the only way to completely relieve symptoms of heavy, tired, achy legs,” he says.

Not your grandmother’s stockings

In recent years, compression stockings have gone through a form and function redesign. Gone are the days of rubber socks that only came in flesh colors. Improvements include new fiber materials that are cooler, softer, highly durable and definitely more fashionable.

If you think you may benefit from compression stockings, contact the doctors at VeinInnovations today and schedule an appointment to be fitted.