Saturday, May 3, 2008

Compression Socks: Not Just For Grandma

During the course of our days and weeks, we see countless customers purchasing compression socks and stockings. Some folks have used these garments to great effect for years, so it’s an easy errand for them to run. They have already worked through the burdens of feeling somehow stigmatized by having to wear these things. They know how great they make their legs feel and that’s what is driving them now.

However, we see many a droopy faced individual clutching a prescription, sheepishly inquiring about “those socks for swelling legs.” It’s true that if you have never seen compression socks lately, much less worn them, you might have images of Grandma in her hospital bed with what looked like tight, white stockings pulled up to her thighs. Shake that image off (although I will tell you more about those white stockings later in this blog).

Compression stockings have a long history, having early roots in Europe. Tightly wrapping areas of swelling, of course, is an intuitive response to inflammation and discomfort. Egyptians mastered the art of wrapping and brought it beyond death with the art of mummification. Native peoples created balms from roots and plants and applied before wrapping. The art was handed down and eventually companies emerged in the 1800s refining the fabrics and knitting methods. In 1912 the compression stocking factory, Funk und Viertel, was founded in eastern Germany, then considered the stocking capital of the world. A young craftsman and businessman created a new method to weave the stockings instead. His son, Julius Zorn, Jr., learned at his father’s side and grew the company significantly. By the 1930s, his company was distributing throughout the world. Forced to close operations because of the war, future generations reopened in West Germany coining a brand, Juzo, derived from the original founder, Julius Zorn. The techniques and methodologies continued to break new ground, with Juzo being the first company to produce a latex-free stocking in the 1960s. Their technology also allowed the garments to be machine washed and dried, something that still helps the brand stand out among many that have entered the field. The company came to the US in the 1980s with one of the original Zorns still at the helm.

So, why does compression work to reduce swelling? Swelling is a result of poor circulation, whether from a temporary situation such as standing on your feet too long on hard surfaces, and post surgical procedures, or more serious conditions such as congestive heart failure or lymphadema which is often a result of breast cancer surgery or other conditions that impact the lymph system. Through the weaving technique the garment provides enough pressure to work with the body’s circulatory system, aiding in its ability to circulate blood through the venous system. Contrary to some folks’ worries, compression does not “cut off circulation.” In fact, when fitted and worn properly compression stockings assist in circulation, providing relief and comfort to legs and feet.

Graduated compression is an important term to know. And here’s where your Grandma’s white stockings in the hospital bed come in. Many folks mistake graduated compression hose for anti-embolism stockings, also known as TEDS®. These stockings are intended for non-ambulatory patients or those confined to a bed or wheel chair. It is common in recovery rooms and post surgery for physicians to prescribe these stockings for patients to prevent coagulation (thrombosis) and stimulate blood flow. They are typically white and are of a thicker knit often with an opening at the toes. Anti-embolism stockings have a universal compression throughout ranging from 8-18mmHg. So, you can see that those stockings definitely have their purpose, especially when Grandma was recovering from her fractured hip when you saw her in the hospital. While wearing anti-embolism won’t hurt you if you are ambulatory, they often won’t help you as much as you would prefer. If you are up and about and still have some swelling, or conditions more serious, such as Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT), graduated compression is what you need and want as part of your health plan.

Graduated compression stockings are medically therapeutic and designed for people who are mobile. They work with a “graduated” effect, providing 100% compression at the most distal point, being the ankle and decreasing up the leg. The ankle is usually where blood will pool when circulatory issues are present, so having the highest level of compression at this point creates the best effect. The compression is measured in millimeters of mercury (mmHg). Graduated compression stockings are manufactured in compression ranges: 12-20mmHg, 20-30mmHg, 30-40mmHg, 40-50mmHg, and 50+mmHg.

Graduated compression stockings coincide with specific medical indications. Stockings below 20mmHg are available over-the-counter (OTC) and compression levels above 30mmHg require a medical prescription. You should always speak with your doctor first about appropriate therapies, including compression stockings. Over-the-counter levels of compression are safe for everyone, however. They have been made all the more popular with the introduction of colors, soft and silky new fabrics, and ease of wear and care.

So, don’t stay away from compression socks because you cannot shake that image of Granny. Compression is not just for those who are aging or ill. People in all walks of life, and at all ages, including police officers, military officers, and medical professionals themselves, wear compression hose every day. I met someone recently who hikes a lot, serious hiking. He wears thigh high compression stockings to help with his circulation. He finds it an important tool in fighting leg fatigue.

If you want to take a closer look at compression stockings and check out Juzo and other brands for yourself, visit us at our flagship location, or online. Email or call us with your questions. Our staff is trained on the full range of compression options, including how to easily don compression garments and take care of them.

If you wear compression and would like to share your opinions, please let us know your thoughts here.

Read more about compression in our earlier blogs.

2 comments:

mylene sai said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Triathlon Shorts said...

While some may think that support stockings are only used for medical related circumstances, we are finding that there are more and more benefits and reasons to wear support stockings.