Aside from any preexisting injury or medical conditions, lower leg swelling may most likely be due to venous insufficiency. That is when the veins in our legs that work to bring blood back to our heart are not working as efficiently as they should. Veins work against gravity and to help with that they have valves that allow blood to flow in only one direction. When these valves are not working properly there is a back flow or leakage of blood that collects in our legs, ankles and feet. Some risk factors for venous insufficiency include pregnancy, prolonged use of oral contraceptives, Varicose veins, previous DVT ( blood clot), family history ( if other family members have a history of this condition), inactivity , obesity, injury to the legs, cancer. Prolonged sitting or standing in one position may trigger your legs to feel heavy or tired and achy from venous insufficiency. Venous insufficiency will also produce varicose and spider veins, skin discoloration, swelling, cramping, leg weakness, and possibly leg ulcerations.
Many variations of these stocking exist and they come in several different levels of pressure. Some are for athletic use to prevent exercise induced pooling of blood in the legs. There are knee, thigh and pantyhose lengths. Compression stockings are available for both men and women.
Who should wear compression stockings? Anyone who has a preexisting diagnosis of venous insufficiency should consult a vascular specialist to determine the level of pressure best suited for them. Compression stockings can be worn during pregnancy to help prevent the occurrence of spider and varicose veins, and help treat lower leg edema. Anyone who is standing or sitting in one place for extended periods of time for work would benefit from compression stocking therapy; this will treat the tired heavy feeling in your legs and prevent unsightly veins. Athletes often use compression socks or sleeves to aid in the return of blood to the heart, this prevents cramping and weakness improving performance. It is also good practice to wear compression stockings for any long flights to help prevent Deep Vein Thrombosis (blood clots).
For Knee high: first measurement is at the narrowest part of your ankle just above your ankle bone, then at the widest part of your calf, lastly with your knee bent 90 degrees measure from just below the bend in your knee to the floor.
For thigh high and pantyhose lenghts: add a measurement around the widest part of your thigh, and another from just below the buttock to the floor.
Use these measurements in conjunction with the companies sizing chart to ensure proper fit.
There are different levels of compression. Each level is meant for different uses and individuals. The lower the number the lighter the compression. 8-15mmHg are best for prevention, if you do not have any varicose veins at the moment but want to prevent the occurrence, these are a good choice to wear during pregnancy or during long periods of standing. 15-20 mmHg will help alleviate mild swelling occurring in the lower extremity and help prevent varicose and spider veins.
20-30 and 30-40mmhg are usually prescribed for patients with varicose and spider veins, post treatment to prevent recurrence , to manage edema, control of certain blood pressure abnormalities and treatment of ulcers secondary to venous insufficiency.
Compression stockings are a great tool to help relieve swelling, treat tired achy legs and prevent vein disease. Proper fit is important to gain the most benefit and comfort while using the compression stockings or socks. There are plenty of websites and a variety of manufacturers out there to shop around and get the best value.