Understanding Levels of Compression for Stockings

Updated on July 10, 2020 - originally published on Jan 11, 2012

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One of the confusing aspects of choosing the right compression stocking is to understand the level of compression. Compression stockings have a range of numbers to indicate how much graduated compression the garment has. The standard compression levels for compression stockings are 15-20 mmHg (over the counter), 20-30 mmHg (medical class 1), 30-40 mmHg (medical class 2) and 40-50 mmHg (medical class 3). There are other levels of compression, however these are standardized and the most commonly used.

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What the Compression Levels Mean

Compression levels are indicated with a range of numbers like “20-30 mmHg”, which means that the amount of compression will not fall below 20 mmHg and not exceed 30 mmHg. The unit of measurement is called “millimeters of mercury” which is a measurement of pressure, also used in blood pressure. Another important detail about compression stockings is that CEP, Juzo, Mediven and Sigvaris all graduate the compression in their compression stockings and socks. Having “graduated compression” means that the compression is strongest at the ankle and gets lighter as you go up the leg. This very special way of knitting a compression stocking allows circulation to improve up and out of the legs. (There would be devastating effects if the graduated compression went down towards your feet instead of going away from your feet.) Not all compression stocking manufacturers properly graduate the compression, so be sure to only wear reputable brands such as CEP, Juzo, Mediven and Sigvaris.

Over the Counter 15-20 mmHg

A low level of compression, such as 15-20 mmHg is a great choice for everyday compression stockings to help with mild swelling and fatigued legs due to long periods of travel, sitting or standing. 15-20 mmHg compression stockings come in knee high, thigh high, pantyhose and maternity pantyhose styles. Available for both men and women, there are many different styles to choose from. There are casual every day compression socks made to look like dress socks and casual cotton socks. There are also sheer fashion styles for women. Sports compression socks are also available in the 15-20 mmHg level of compression. A lot of people choose to wear the 15-20 mmHg compression for flying and travel. They’re comfortable and because there are numerous styles, more and more people are choosing to add a little 15-20 mmHg compression into their lifestyles.

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Medical Grade Class I 20-30 mmHg

The 20-30 mmHg level of compression is the first medical grade compression. It’s the most widely used medical grade because it provides competent compression to your legs without being too strong. The 20-30 mmHg level of compression is great for managing swelling in your legs, spider veins, varicose veins, travel, sports and after certain surgeries. Pregnant mothers are also finding the benefits of compression stockings and are starting to wear 20-30 mmHg to alleviate heaviness, swelling and aching in their legs. The 20-30 mmHg level of compression is available in a wide variety of styles for both men and women in knee high, thigh high, pantyhose and maternity pantyhose styles. There are also sheer fashion styles, dress sock styles, sports sock styles and opaque styles for 20-30 mmHg compression stockings by CEP, Juzo, Mediven and Sigvaris.

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Medical Grade Class II 30-40 mmHg

The 30-40 mmHg level of compression is a stronger medical grade class II. It’s recommended for leg health symptoms that range from moderate to severe. The 30-40 mmHg level of compression is also recommended when you have a blood clot or a deep vein thrombosis DVT. Patients with lymphedema are also recommended to use the 30-40 mmHg level of compression. When choosing the 30-40 mmHg compression, also be sure to think about what kind of fabric your compression stocking or sock should be. Because the stocking is providing more compression in the 30-40 mmHg strength, it’s a good idea to choose a more durable material. Sheer compression stockings that are 30-40 mmHg may be more prone to snags and holes. Also, if you’re considering the 30-40 mmHg for a more severe leg health issue, try picking a fabric that’s stronger like the Juzo Varin, the Mediven Plus or the Sigvaris Natural Rubber (caution the Sigvaris Natural Rubber contains Latex).

Medical Grade Class III 40-50 mmHg

The 40-50 mmHg level of compression is a very strong compression. It’s strongly recommend that people considering this level of compression have thoroughly consulted their doctor or healthcare professional about compression stockings and their health. This level of compression is used for severe venous stasis, wound management, and lymphedema.

Consult a Doctor

When choosing a compression level for your travel socks or compression stockings, you’ll likely want to consult your doctor for recommendations. Depending on your situation, a lighter compression level may be more effective for you than a stronger level of compression.

Also, remember to replace your compression stockings every five or six months in order to assure that they maintain their proper shape and compression level. If your compression stockings start to feel loose, it’s time for a new pair.

Thanks for reading and if you have more questions about levels of compression for stockings, contact the LegSmart Customer Care Team at any time!