Compression stockings are used to relieve symptoms of venous insufficiency and to help prevent related complications. It is important, first and foremost, to understand the difference between compression stockings and support stockings. Support stockings are only used as a preventive measure when one's legs feel heavy or tired, whereas compression stockings have a therapeutic effect. They exert pressure on the leg veins and help blood flow back towards the heart. They reduce pain, slow disease progression and delay the onset of complications.
Compression stockings are divided into 4 different categories, based on the level of compression they exert:
- Class 1 - 20 to 30 mmHg
- Class 2 - 30 to 40 mmHg
- Class 3 - 40 to 50 mmHg
- Class 4 - 50 to 60 mmHg
Support stockings usually exert about 15 to 20 mmHg of pressure. Class 3 and 4 stockings are mainly reserved for more severe cases of venous insufficiency.
When to wear them
Unless told otherwise, it is not recommended to wear these stockings continuously. Furthermore, it is pointless to wear them when exercising or lying down, since venous return is usually not an issue in these situations. Wearing them when sitting or standing for prolonged periods is what is most important. They are particularly beneficial for people with occupations that require them to stand in one position (hairdresser, sales associate, nurse), or who travel long distances by car, train or plane, for example.
Choosing the right stocking
The following measurements should be taken by a specialist before you purchase your stockings: the circumference of the foot at its thickest point, the circumference of the heel, of the thigh and of the knee, as well as the distance between the crotch and the ground. The discomfort associated with wearing compression stockings is most often the result of ill-fitting or ill-adjusted stockings. Although you may be somewhat bothered when you first start wearing your stockings, they will soon bring you some relief and begin to feel more comfortable.
The level of compression best suited for your needs should be determined by your doctor, and will be based on your medical condition.
There are several types of stockings on the market. They are made from a variety of materials and, depending on the manufacturer, you can choose from a variety of dress socks and more stylish stockings. A specialist will be able to help you make the right choice.
How to put them on
To make putting on your stockings as easy as possible and to maximize their effectiveness, it is recommended that you put them on as soon as you get up in the morning. You may find it easier to wear rubber gloves when putting them on as they will give you more gripping power. Be careful not to damage your stockings with jewellery, watches and long nails.
Here are some step by step tips on how to put on your compression stockings:
- Lie down and lift your leg
- Fold the top half of the sock down to the heel
- Slide your foot into the sock to the heel
- Roll the folded top half back up towards the ankle, then up the rest of the leg without pulling
- Adjust the sock with the palm of your hand, without pulling
- Make sure there are no folds
If you find it difficult to unroll the stocking, put some talcum powder on your foot and leg before putting on the stocking. Special accessories are also available to help you put on your compression stockings.
Hand wash your stockings with a mild soap and hang them to dry. Machine washing and drying is not recommended.
If you have any questions, do not hesitate to speak to your pharmacist.