LegSmart wants to make it easy to choose the right compression sock or stocking. There’s many options out there. So we created this helpful guide to easily find the right compression sock or stocking.
Before getting into the different fabrics and styles, first choose the level of compression. The level of compression is how strong the compression stockings should be. The level of compression is indicated by a range of numbers. The higher the numbers, the more your legs will be compressed. Common levels of compression are 15-20 mmHg, 20-30 mmHg, and 30-40 mmHg. There are some other levels of compression like 8-15 mmHg, or 18-25 mmHg, and there’s not a big difference between them. A good rule of thumb is whenever the compression is below 20 mmHg, they’re considered over the counter. When they’re 20-30 mmHg, they’re a moderate or medium compression. And when they’re over 30 mmHg, they’re firm. When they’re over 40 mmHg, consider that a strong level of compression.
Gentle and light. Great for daily wear, travel, and sports, these easy to wear compression stockings help improve circulation without being too tight on your legs. 15-20 mmHg compression garments come in a variety of materials to fit any lifestyle.
Moderate medium comprression for daily wear, sports recovery, medical recovery and to manage mild symptoms. Ideal for varicose veins, spider veins, swelling (edema) and after surgery. You don’t have to have a condition to wear 20-30 mmHg. People looking for a bit more support than the 15-20 mmHg usually choose to wear 20-30 mmHg.
Firm compression for managing moderate to severe symptoms, medical recovery and daily wear. This stronger level of compression is recommended for blood clots (DVT), lymphedema, severe swelling (edema), severe varicose veins and post surgery.
The medical abbreviation "mmHg" stands for "millimeters of Mercury", which is a unit of measurement for pressure. It’s the same unit of measure when you take your blood pressure. Compression stockings use a range for how much pressure it provides because the compression changes depending on your size.
The general rule of thumb is to ask yourself where the affected area is on your legs. If you have swelling only in your ankles, then a knee high sock should be sufficient. If you have swelling on or above the knee, consider a thigh high or pantyhose / waist high compression stocking.
Knee high compression socks stop below the bend of your knee, just past the curvature of your calf. Though some compression socks or stockings are stretchy enough to pull up over your knee, please do not do so. Pulling your knee highs over your knee might cause them to roll or slide down, which is uncomfortable and sometimes dangerous depending on your condition and the compression you’re wearing.
Thigh high compression stockings cover your entire leg, stopping at the top of your thigh, below the fold of the buttock. Thigh high compression stockings are made to cover your entire thigh because it is intended to improve circulation throughout your entire leg.
Waist high (pantyhose, maternity pantyhose & Men’s leotard) compression stockings have both legs connected by a torso portion. Waist high compression stockings are able to bring swelling up and out of your legs through your hips. This is a key distinction between waist high and thigh high compression stockings. For women, maternity (or plus size) pantyhose have a highly expandable belly portion.
These "middle of the road" fabrics are the most common and are ideal for both men and women because they are comfortable, easy to wear and are strong enough to provide enough compression to your legs. Opaque fabrics are more durable than sheer stockings and are ideal for after surgery, varicose veins and swelling.
Sheer materials are lightweight, transparent and fashionable. Available from all our brands, sheer compression stockings make compression easy to pair with any stylish wardrobe. Sometimes, sheer fabrics do not provide as much containment for swelling and are less durable against snags and runs. The trade off here is that Sheer styles look better, but are not as durable or in some cases effective.
Compression socks for running or sports are made of durable materials that control heat and moisture. Because of demanding wear and tear use, sport materials are constructed differently to increase durability. Sport and casual compression socks are still a great choice as a daily wear socks for post surgery, varicose veins, spider veins and swelling. However, these sport materials are generally only available in lower compression levels such as 15-20 mmHg and 20-30 mmHg.
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