As a Podiatrist I commonly prescribe compression stockings for both women and men who experience swelling of their legs due to venous insufficiency or lymphedema. Most people associate these illnesses with compression stockings. Compression stockings deliver a gradient squeezing to the leg, which starts tightest at the ankle and decreases gradually as it goes up the leg. The muscle in the calf has a natural pump which pushes venous blood and lymph into circulation in the legs. Compression stockings offer assisstance when the natural pump is no longer functioning sufficiently enough to maintain appropriate flow.
There are many people in the work force that must stand, sit, or travel for long periods of time. These people are the most at risk for getting varicose veins, venous insufficiency, edema, or lymphedema. The aching that comes with swollen legs is due to the pooling and back flow of blood. Compression stockings promote blood flow from the legs back to the heart and prevent the venous blood from becoming lethargic. The gradient action of compression stockings massages the calf muscles all day, whether you are sitting or standing. Wearing compression stocking at work and while traveling may prevent these disease from occurring. Compression stockings may help prevent deep vein thrombosis (DVT) and relieve the pain from the swelling that pregnant women experience in their legs.
Compression stockings may be sold over the counter or prescribed by your doctor. Over the counter stockings include pressures between 10-15 and 15-20mmHg. Pressure in compression stockings is measured in the unit mmHg. Any stocking over 20mmHg must be accompanied by a doctor’s prescription. Stockings can go up to the knee, thigh, or be full length panty hose. Compression stockings are different then regular socks because they go by the size of your calf instead of your shoe size. Before purchasing compression stockings you should measure the circumference of your calf and compare it with the measurement chart of the brand of stocking you are buying. Compression stockings can be challenging to put on for some people. If this is the case there are many devices to assist such as: rubber gloves, rubber mats, donning devices, and easy slides. For people who enjoy using lotion on their legs daily, latex compression stockings should be avoided.
Compression stockings are more expensive than regular socks. Prices may vary anywhere from $15 to $70 dollar depending on style, brand, and pressure. Medicare Part B does not cover compression stockings; however, some private insurance plans provide coverage. People with advanced arterial disease of the leg, uncontrolled congestive heart failure, skin infections, fabric allergies, impaired sensitivity of the legs, and immobility should not wear compression stockings without consulting their doctor first. Wearing compression stockings as a prophylactic device may prevent these serious medical conditions from occurring and keep your legs young and healthy looking for many years to come.