Doctors recommend wearing compression stockings for a variety of medical problems. Compression stockings compress your legs, to increase circulation up and down the legs and feet. Compression stockings are commonly used to prevent and treat condition such as DVT (deep vein thrombosis, a blood clot deep in the vein); varicose veins and venous leg ulcers. You may also be recommended post surgery.
Putting socks on can be a real struggle, compression stockings are no easier. You might already be using a sock aid but these will not work with compression stockings.
If your doctor has recommended that you begin wearing compression stockings, it’s really important that you understand why, how to put them on – or ask someone to help you, and how to look after them.
5 benefits of wearing compression socks:
- Improve venous return
- Prevent venous blood from pooling in the legs
- Decrease the risk of blood clots
- Lessen leg swelling
- Improve symptoms of vein disease
Deep vein thrombosis (DVT) is a condition that occurs when blood clots form in veins deep inside your body. These clots can occur anywhere in the body. However, this condition often affects the lower legs or thighs.
Symptoms of DVT include swelling, pain or tenderness, and skin that may feel warm to the touch.
DVT can happen to anyone. But you have a greater risk of developing DVT after a surgery or trauma. Being overweight and smoking are also risk factors.
Since DVT can lead to serious complications, your doctor may recommend DVT compression stockings to reduce swelling and improve blood flow to your heart and lungs. If you’re not familiar with how these stockings work, here’s what you need to know.
How do compression stockings work?
Compression stockings are like socks or tights, but they’re made from a different material and serve a different purpose.
While you may wear ordinary stockings for style or to protect your legs, compression stockings have an elastic fabric designed to fit tightly around the ankles, legs, and thighs. These stockings are tighter around the ankle and less tight around the calves and thighs.
The pressure created by the stockings pushes fluid up the leg, which allows blood to flow freely from the legs to the heart. Compression stockings not only improve blood flow, but also reduce swelling and pain. They are particularly recommended for the prevention of DVT because the pressure stops blood from pooling and clotting.
Wearing compression stockings
If you experience leg trauma or have surgery, your doctor may prescribe compression stockings for use during your hospital stay or at home. You can also buy them from a pharmacy or a medical supply store.
These stockings can be worn after a DVT diagnosis to alleviate some of the discomfort and swelling. Compression stockings may also be worn as a preventative measure.
- Do carefully measure your legs to ensure you get the right size. You want to ensure you get the medical benefit and that they are as comfortable as possible to wear all day.
- Do look after them – a gentle wash every day you wear them is recommended, not only for hygiene but to get the longest use of them. They will stretch over your legs so by washing, it helps them to keep their shape. Please check the instruction with your stockings on recommended cleaning products.
- Do put your stockings on first thing in the morning, every day. Legs and feet are less swollen at the beginning of the day and you will get the maximum benefit as you are active throughout the day.
- Do ask for help – compression stockings are tight, so if you find it hard to put them on, or bending down can be a challenge, consider asking a partner or friend to help you. Your stocking may come with a silky sleeve – stocking donner – or you can find a range of different gadgets to help you or a carer to help with this daily task. Stretching the stocking over the foot is often the biggest challenge. Avoid snagging the stocking with your finger nails or rings. With extra grip to open wide, a frame can make it quicker & easier for you or someone who helps you. Check that you can use seating, standing or lying – whichever is the most stable for you.
- Do replace when they start to wear – every 3-6 months. The elastic will stretch and when they start to sag is a good indicator that they might be due a change.
- Don’t roll them up to put on or take off. This will create a tight band which can restrict your circulation as well as being very painful.
- Don’t wear at night. Unless your doctor has specifically advised to. When we are lying down, we are in a nice neutral position which supports blood flow. Having your legs above your heart level, supports blood flow so you could pop a couple of pillows under your feet.
- Don’t use harsh chemicals to wash the stockings, these can be harmful to the skin and the material
- Avoid lotions, creams and oils on the skin prior to getting dressed – it’s better to apply moisturiser in the evening. Applying a little talc can make it smoother to pull up.
- Don’t alter/cut the compression stockings. They are graduated, meaning the compression is strongest at the foot/ankle and gets lighter as you progress up the leg. Cutting off the foot area may cause them to roll up & become uncomfortable.
Putting on compression stocking is not easy. Here is a short video we have made to help you, using the Ezy-on: