What are compression socks and what do they do?
Have you been hearing about compression socks everywhere but have no idea what they are? Compression socks are a specialized piece of apparel designed to provide compression and support from the knee down. Typically made from a combination of spandex and nylon, these socks provide strong pressure on your veins which helps promote blood flow, reduces swelling, and decreases the risk of fluid from your bloodstream pooling in any one area, like your ankles and feet.
Swelling in the legs and feet is caused by fluids traveling and getting trapped in the lower extremities thanks to gravity. This is called edema. When one elevates their feet (usually when going to bed), the fluids have an easier time to go where they need to go, including getting processed by the kidney and then bladder… resulting in waking up at night to urinate for some.
In people with limited mobility, compression socks can be life-changing in the way they reduce body pain from poor circulation. Others may find compression socks useful for reducing fatigue after a long day on their feet or helping them get through tough workout routines with less pain and increased comfort. Compression socks can help get things moving again and serve as an exciting new option when it comes to improving your overall well-being and quality of life.
Who should wear compression socks and when should they be worn?
Compression socks are for everyone but can be especially beneficial to expectant mothers, athletes, teachers, nurses, or anyone on their feet all day, including those struggling with nocturia (waking at night to pee).
Compression Socks for Pregnancy
Compression socks for women are especially useful during certain health events. Compression socks for pregnancy are increasingly popular due to their beneficial impact on pregnancy health. While typical pregnancy compression garments are designed to restrict swelling throughout the entire body, socks provide safe pressure specifically around the ankles and lower legs with minimal discomfort during long periods of wear. During pregnancy, the hormone relaxin causes joints and ligaments to loosen (which makes delivery through the pelvis possible). However, that also means fluid retention, bones in the feet spread, and unfortunately can be painful, especially during warm months. My daughter was born in July and my feet went from size 7.5 to 8 (and never went back!)
Pregnancy often causes a considerable increase in fluid volume and uncomfortable leg cramps that are sometimes experienced during pregnancy. Compression socks around the legs can help improve posture by supporting feet and calf muscles when standing or walking, thereby helping expecting mothers avoid common aches and pains associated with carrying a baby in utero. Additionally, compression socks are readily available and easy to wear as a practical solution for promoting better health and well-being among expectant mothers.
Compression Socks for Those on their Feet
Compression socks are important for doctors, teachers, construction workers, and other professionals who spend all day on their feet. Police officers can also benefit from compression socks. Many of these professionals find that compression socks help lessen the swelling and fatigue in their feet and legs after a long day. The snug fit helps support blood flow throughout the legs, which can reduce soreness and improve overall well-being.
Compression socks aren’t only for those on their feet for a long workday. Athletes such as cyclists and runners can also benefit from improved circulation and increased comfort and compression can help speed up recovery after enduring workouts. Ultimately, the use of compression socks is beneficial to anyone who experiences inflammation in their feet–they can be a night and day difference in how comfortable people feel at the end of the workday.
Compression Socks for those Waking up at Night to Urinate
If you wake more than once at night, you have Nocturia, and luckily, compression socks can help! Nocturia is the result of gravity pulling fluid into your legs during the day and the release of that fluid back into the bloodstream to be processed by the kidneys when you lie down. But by keeping blood circulating and counteracting gravity, compression socks prevent fluids from accumulating in your legs during the day which can reduce the overproduction of urine at night. So if you’re finding yourself frequently waking up at night for a bathroom break, try throwing on some compression socks for nocturia and you’ll be surprised by how much better you sleep and how much more rested you feel.
When you wake up less at night, you get more sleep. When you get more sleep, you get sick less often, stay a healthy weight, reduce stress and improve your mood, think more clearly and do better work, get along better with others and lower your risk for serious health problems. I like to point out the obvious: when you are not sleepy the next day you are safer on the road too!
Watch to See How Compression Socks for Nocturia Works
Compression Socks FAQs
What are Medical-Grade Compression Socks?
There are varying degrees of compression. Compression is usually measured in ‘mm Hg’ (millimeters of Mercury). Why? Because mercury was used in the first accurate gauge of pressure. All you need to know is:
- 15-20 mmHg: light compression for better health, athletes, and light edema
- 20-30 mmHg: medium compression is considered Medical-grade (Class 1), true medical devices that should be registered with the FDA
- 30-40 mmHg: strong compression is considered Medical-grade (Class 2), likely for serious indications such as cardiovascular health
- 40-50 mmHg: super strong is considered Medical-grade (Class 3). You need a prescription for these! Think of conditions like varicose veins and deep vein thrombosis.
How are compression socks sized?
Good question. Compression is measured off a typical leg. There are standards, but how can they account for varying leg sizes? Unfortunately, typically they do not and you may need to increase the compression strength if you have a thin leg. If you have a thicker leg, look for manufacturers that offer a “wide-calf” size.
What is the difference between compression socks and compression stockings?
Some manufacturers use the terms interchangeably. Typically compression socks only go up to the knee, whereas compression stockings may go up to the thigh. Also compression socks may have a band at the top to keep the socks in place below the knee. Compression stockings, especially those that go up to the thigh, may use the tightness of the stocking to hold it up.
What do graduated compression socks mean?
Graduated compression tighter compression around the ankle and gets looser as you go up the leg. Graduated compression socks are ideal, because the tightest compression is where you need it most to force the fluids upward, while allowing for the most comfort.
Do I wear compression socks while sleeping?
No, not ideally unless medically necessary. For most people, the benefit of compression socks is to prevent edema (fluid retention) in the legs to fight gravity. Unless you sleep standing up, the horizontal position of your legs will help relieve the edema while sleeping. It will be nice to let the legs breathe and relax too.
Can compression socks reduce incontinence?
By waking up less to urinate, it can reduce incontinence at night as a byproduct. It can reduce falls in the middle of the night which is significant. However, it does not treat the underlying problem of incontinence, which is the weak pelvic floor muscles and/or overactive bladder. For that, you will need to tone the muscles with a device such as ELITONE.
Give Them a Try!
If you resonate with any of these cases or are maybe just curious about how compression socks will help you, investing in a pair is definitely worth your while. With so many benefits, there’s really no reason not to give them a try!
Compression Socks that are Good-Looking
Unfortunately, most compression socks are ugly. Especially medical-grade socks. The often come in boring skin-color, white or black. In our survey, looking-good was second only to comfort! Well the BetterSleep socks are not only useful and efficacious (graduated compression, medical-grade), but they look good and are cute! (Even fashion-approved by teenage girls.)