If you suffer from poor blood circulation in your lower legs, compression therapy can help. Compression therapy is beneficial for swelling and pain associated with conditions that cause poor blood circulation, such as varicose veins and venous insufficiency.
Compression socks and stockings are designed for compression therapy and can be available over the counter or with a prescription. At Alabama Vein & Restoration Medspa, we can measure and fit and give medical-grade stockings at our office. Read on to learn more about compression therapy, its benefits, and how it can help you with circulatory issues.
What Is Compression Therapy?
Compression therapy is a simple, effective method that helps improve blood flow activity in your lower legs and treats poor lower extremity circulation by strengthening vein support. The technique involves applying gentle pressure onto your ankles, feet, and legs using elastic compression socks, wraps, and stockings. These stockings are specialized hosiery used to gradually stretch out vein walls to help improve blood flow in the lower leg veins and relieve pain.
They gently squeeze your legs to prevent blood from pooling and fluid buildup to promote blood flow freely to your heart. This prevents pain, swelling, and discomfort in the lower legs and, to some extent, blood clots. When you wear your compression garment, it will feel tight but without pain. They help improve circulation, and you start to feel better immediately.
Your healthcare provider may prescribe compression stockings and socks to help:
- Relieve leg swelling, pain, and other symptoms due to circulatory problems in your ankles and legs
- Prevent blood clots, primarily after surgery or injury, one is less active
- Find relief from the aching and heavy feeling in your legs
- Manage symptoms associated with post-thrombotic syndrome (PTS)
- Prevent complications of blood clots in the legs, such as post-phlebitic syndrome (pain and swelling in the leg)
Types of Compression Therapy
The types of compression therapy devices include the following:
- Compression stockings: These are the most widely used methods of compression therapy. They go up your knee. For swelling that extends above your knee, your provider will recommend tights that come up to your waist.
- Compression socks: These offer compression for the ankles and feet and are also helpful if you have fluid build-up in your ankles. They are the size of regular socks and can also be available in knee-high lengths.
- Compression bandages or wraps: These are other common alternatives usually applied in multiple layers. If you have difficulty putting on socks, Velcro wraps and elastic bandages are easier to use. They are layered to provide compression.
Other modes of compression therapy include:
- Mechanical compression devices or inflatable devices such as a compressed air device or a wearable compression boot. These usually cover your legs fully and are inflated gently to pressurize your legs. Athletes commonly use them.
Manufacturers rate compression socks based on the amount of pressure they provide. Your condition will determine the amount of compression you need. Compressions are measured in units- mmHg, or millimeters of mercury, and there is no standard scale for rating compression stockings or socks. The general categories of pressure include the following:
- Low (less than 20 mmHg)
- Medium (20 to 30 mmHg)
- High (greater than 30 mmHg)
Stockings with a rating of 20mmHg and above require a prescription. Low-compression stockings can be suitable for those who sit for long durations or are pregnant. They can be found over-the-counter; however, it would be best to consult your doctor before purchasing over-the-counter compressions to see what pressure category is best for you. You should be measured for medium and high-compression stockings.
Common Conditions Treated with Compression Therapy
Compression therapy helps treat individuals with conditions caused by poor blood circulation, including:
Chronic Venous Insufficiency (VCI)
CVI is a common condition whereby veins cannot send blood back to your heart from your legs, resulting in blood build-up in the leg veins and pools. This is known as venous stasis. CVI is associated with age, deep vein thrombosis DVT, and prolonged standing or sitting. The condition affects about 20% of men and 40% of women over 50. Compression therapy helps reduce CVI by squeezing your leg muscles to push blood against gravity and back to your heart.
Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT)
DVT is a condition whereby a blood clot forms in the deep veins in your body (commonly a leg or thigh), which blocks blood flow, resulting in blood buildup and swelling. Blood clots form when blood thickens and clumps up. If you have DVT, talk with your doctor before beginning compression therapy to determine if it is right for you. DVT risk factors include:
- Having excess weight
- Physical inactivity or immobility
- Pregnancy and postpartum (up to six weeks after birth)
Leg Ulcers and Wounds
Leg ulcers are open wounds or sores that can occur anywhere in the body but often affect your legs, feet, and ankles. Diabetes, varicose veins, and poor circulation increases the risk of developing lower leg and foot ulcers. Compression therapy can help treat and prevent the recurrence of leg ulcers and wounds.
Edema occurs when fluid collects in your ankles, legs, feet, or other areas. Fluid pools in your lower extremities due to gravity. The body can prevent pooling in various ways; however, some conditions can cause it. Swelling in your lower extremities can be caused by the following conditions:
- Congestive heart failure
- Chronic venous insufficiency
- Sitting or standing in one place for a long time
When low pressure is applied with compression stockings or hoses, it can help minimize swelling and fluid accumulation.
Orthostatic hypotension is the rapid drop of blood pressure that usually occurs when you stand. The condition occurs due to blood returning from your legs to your heart. With compression therapy, the blood from your legs is squeezed back up to the heart.
Treating Lymphedema After Surgery
If your lymph node is removed during surgery, it can affect lymphatic fluid drainage from your limbs. This is known as lymphedema. When your body cannot drain the excess fluid, you may experience swelling. Compression garments such as sleeves and stockings can help drain fluid in the affected areas and enhance recovery by reducing swelling and pain. Compression therapy also helps prevent complications such as blood clots from occurring.
When to Wear a Compression Garment
Compression amounts vary significantly and are adjusted based on movement, material, and the strength of applying the products. If you have a sedentary job, you may wear your compression garment throughout the day and take it off when going to sleep. You can wear them for a few hours daily for active jobs or activities. If you blood pool while sleeping, you do not need to wear your garment. Instead, elevate your legs above your heart and give your skin a break. Ensure you use the correct compression garments as instructed by your doctor or pharmacists.
Once you begin wearing your compression garments, you will get immediate relief from your condition. It is important to note that it will take several days of use to notice a substantial reduction in swelling. It would be best to wear your compression garment first thing in the morning because your lower extremities are the least swollen at this time. It may take about six weeks for visible improvement in vein appearance.
Compression Hose Therapy Risks
Compression therapy problems are not severe. They include:
- Skin irritation due to sensitivity to certain fabrics or the compression itself
- Discomfort or pain may occur from the squeezing of the compression sock
- Swelling of the toes or lower foot where compression is lower
- Fungal or bacterial infection due to sweating into the compression garments
Though rare, severe side effects, such as nerve damage, soft tissue damage, and superficial thromboembolism (a blood clot in the superficial veins under the skin), may occur.
Benefits of Compression Hose Therapy
Not only is compression hose therapy beneficial for the medical conditions mentioned above, but it can also improve the quality of in some circumstances, such as:
Improved Blood Circulation During Long or Frequent Flights
Frequent flyers sit down for long hours and end up experiencing aches and pains due to poor circulation. Long sitting hours can pose health risks for your legs and overall well-being. Compression garments can help provide circulation in your legs and prevent blood clots and deep vein thrombosis while sitting for long flights.
Improved Athletic Performance and Recovery
Professional athletes help enhance athletic performance, promote muscle recovery, and reduce muscle soreness post-workout. They help increase oxygen to our muscles by moving your blood through the muscles. They also provide extra support and minimize your risk of muscle strain which can result in an injury. Every day people also use compression garments in their regular workouts.
Blood Flow During Pregnancy and A Healthy Posture
In the later months of pregnancy, compression therapy can be highly beneficial for expectant women. Pregnancy adds weight, resulting in poor posture, circulation, and back pain. Pregnant women can use compression garments to help improve posture and promote blood circulation.
Careers That Involve Long Standing Hours
People with careers that require them to stand for long durations have difficulty keeping their legs and feet healthy. They are prone to swollen legs. If you spend a great deal of time standing or sitting, compression socks can help improve circulation in your legs.
Compression garments help relieve pain and discomfort. When muscles are compressed, blood is forced back toward your heart, making you feel lighter.
Reduces cellulite appearance
There is no known cause for cellulite. Scientists think that blood circulation plays a part in it. Compression garments have been shown to reduce and prevent cellulite formation.
Improves body awareness
According to studies, people using compression therapy feel more tuned to their bodies. This is achieved when compression garments pressure your skin and activate receptors that signal your brain where and what your legs, feet, and hands are doing.
Increases oxygen in your muscles
According to studies, compression garments help improve the amount of oxygen in muscles and heal soreness.
Get in Touch
At Alabama Vein & Restoration Medspa, we want you to look and feel your best. We offer compression garments suited for your unique needs to mitigate the risk of more serious medical conditions and improve your quality of life. Contact us today for more information on compression hose therapy.