There are up to 100,000 miles of blood vessels in the human body. As it is, there are three main kinds—arteries, veins, and capillaries. Basically, their job is to transport blood, along with nutrients and oxygen, around the body. For the purposes of this article, though, we’ll be focusing on veins, which are the vascular vessels that carry blood back to the heart.
Venous disorders are conditions that affect the veins in the lower legs. Take varicose veins, for instance, they occur when the vein walls weaken. As a result, the valves don’t close properly which causes the blood to move in the opposite direction. Other examples include acute thrombosis, chronic venous insufficiency, and spider veins.
Preventing Venous Disorders
The good news is that there are ways to prevent these disorders, one of which involves wearing compression stockings. Basically, they’re snug-fitting socks that are made to gently squeeze your leg. To be more specific, they’re able to increase valve effectiveness by reducing the diameter of distended veins. In doing so, you’ll have better blood flow from your legs to your heart, which will lower your chance of blood circulation problems.
Types of Compression Stockings
As you may be aware, there are multiple types of compression stockings. Here are some of the main ones:
Graduated Compression Stockings: These stockings offer strong compression at the ankle; the level then gradually decreases as you move up. Depending on the product, it may extend just below the knee or up to the thigh or waist. It’s also worth noting that they do require a professional fitting.
Anti Embolism Stockings: These stockings are designed to reduce the risk of deep vein thrombosis, a serious condition that occurs when a blood clot forms in a vein. Unlike graduated compression stockings, these are not designed for mobility.
Nonmedical Support Hosiery: These hosieries usually don’t require a prescription (e.g. compression socks and hoses that you can find in regular stores). While they offer uniform compression, the amount of pressure that’s delivered isn’t nearly as strong as those of prescription compression stockings.
Other Benefits of Compression Stockings
Compression stockings do more than just boost circulation in your legs. They can also help prevent blood from pooling in your veins, venous ulcers, and orthostatic hypotension. On top of that, they can diminish leg swelling by improving lymphatic drainage.
How to Wear Compression Stockings
For maximum benefits, wear your compression stockings all day. The goal is to put them on before the swelling can start. In the words, you want to put them on as soon as you get out of bed in the morning; you should only be taking them off when you’re going to bed at night.
Having said that, that may be difficult if you’re new to wearing these types of garments. If that’s the case, you may want to start by wearing them for a few hours at a time. That way, you’ll be able to get used to the compression and pressure. From there, you can slowly increase the amount of time that you wear them until you’re wearing them the entire time.
Are There Any Side Effects to Wearing Compression Stockings?
It’s important to check your legs daily for signs of irritation or redness if you wear compression stockings. These symptoms can indicate that you have an infection, that you’re not putting on or taking them off properly, or that you’re allergic to the fabric. In some cases, misuse of these garments can even lead to peripheral nerve damage. Given all that, it’s crucial that you familiarize yourself with the stockings before using them.
What Are These Stockings Made Out Of?
Compression stockings can be made from a variety of fabrics including nylon, spandex, cotton, and rubber. In fact, they’re often knitted together to produce different softness and elasticities. Here’s what you need to know about the materials.
Nylon is sometimes referred to as polyamide. A synthetic material, it’s constructed from plastic polymers, which makes it tear-proof and abrasion-resistant. Not only is it smooth and lightweight, but it also has a considerable amount of stretch. If anything, that’s why it’s often used for compression garments.
Spandex is also synthetic and made from long chains of polymers. If anything, it’s one of the stretchiest materials that exist. No matter how you stretch it, it will always return to its original length. At the same time, it’s also strong, durable, and comfortable.
Cotton is easily one of the most widely used fabrics worldwide. Derived from cotton plants, it is soft, insulating, and breathable, much more so than synthetic fabrics. For this reason, it’s often used for clothes such as sleepwear and underwear.
Natural rubber is made from latex from the rubber tree. As it is, it’s often incorporated into compression stockings to increase durability. In addition to that, it also offers a good amount of elasticity. Keep in mind, however, that some people may be allergic to the material.
Taking Care of Your Compression Stockings
All compression garments, including stockings, must be washed after each use. For example, you’ll want to wash them every day if you wear them on a daily basis. This will help prevent oils and sweat from building up on the inner layer. Not only would that lead to smell but it can also cause the material to wear down—sometimes to the point of ripping! On top of that, regular washing also helps to restore elasticity.
Don’t just wash it with the rest of your clothes, though; you don’t want to compromise the material. If that happens, there’s a high chance that you’ll have to buy another pair! Just started wearing them and have no idea how to wash them? That’s why we’re here. We’ll be going over how to do it step-by-step below—so make sure to keep reading!
How to Safely Wash Your Compression Stockings
In general, there are two ways to wash them; you can either run them through the washing machine or wash them by hand.
Option 1: Putting Your Compression Stockings in the Washer
The first thing that you want to do is to check the socks or stockings for stains. For example, if there’s dirt trapped in the silicone bands, you’ll want to clean them off first. Once they’re free of debris, place them in a mesh garment bag. If anything, this is extremely important. Without the bag, the stockings can easily snag or get damaged during the cycle.
Note: It’s fine to wash your compression socks with other items as long as you put them in a garment bag. Just don’t put them together with coarse fabrics such as denim.
Seal the garment bag and place it in the washing machine. Set it on a cold cycle according to the care tag label and add one scoop of ACTIVE detergent. Remember not to use fabric softeners or chlorine bleach—both of these can damage the compression fabric.
Press start and allow the washer to run. Once the cycle’s complete, take out the stockings and gently press out any excess water. Place them on a clean, flat surface (e.g. on top of a towel or table) and let them air dry. Do not place them near a heat surface and that includes the dryer. Also, it’s important that you don’t wring the material as that can stretch out the fibers.
Option 2: Washing Your Compression Stockings By Hand
We highly recommend that you wash your compression stockings by hand; it’s much gentler on the material. Start by filling a basin or tub with cool water. Create a bath by adding in half a scoop of ACTIVE detergent. Mix and combine the powder with your hand before submerging the socks in the water.
Gently rub the material with your hands to remove any dirt or oils. Pay attention to any silicone bands as they tend to attract debris. Afterward, let them sit for about 10 to 15 minutes.
Rinse the garment thoroughly after soaking to remove the detergent. You’ll have to squeeze the material gently to remove excess soap. Be sure not to pull on the material as that can cause it to stretch out, which will compromise the fit.
Continue to rinse and squeeze the garment until the water runs clear and there are no more soap suds. From there, use your hands to press out the excess water. Finally, lay them on a clean, flat surface to dry. Never should you put them in the dryer.
How Often Should You Replace Your Compression Stockings?
Like most garments, your compression stockings will need to be replaced after a while—that is, they’ll lose their elasticity over time. That’s why we recommend having more than one pair. By rotating them, you’ll be able to prolong their lifespan.
As for when to replace them, it depends. Generally speaking, however, you’ll want to get a new pair every six months. How can you tell whether or not the material has lost its elasticity? If they’re no longer difficult to wear—that means that they’ve lost their compression qualities.