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Compression Hose--Benefits, Features, and Costs of Wearing Compression Stockings

Updated on February 12, 2010

Doctors often recommend compression hose for those who are at risk of leg circulation disorders, such as varicose veins, spider veins, and blood clots.  However, compression hose may benefit anyone who has tired and achy legs.  If you have any of these leg disorders, read on to learn how compression hose can benefit you and possibly save your life.

Why Compression Hose?

Compression stockings were originally made to assist blood vessels with retaining fluids.  But over the years, the need for compression hosiery has extended to a variety of leg-health issues.  Varicose or spider veins, phlebitis, deep vein thrombosis, edema, pregnancy, and venous insufficiency are all conditions that can take a toll, and compression hose can help.  You'll never know when you will need these medical grade stockings since anyone at any age may be at risk for developing any of these problems at one point or another.

How Can Compression Support Hose Help Me?

Individuals with circulation problems can benefit from compression stockings as they are designed to aid blood flow.  The further away veins and blood vessels are from the heart, the slower the blood flows.  So if you have very poor circulation, compression hose can help you by forcing the blood in the lower extremities back to the heart, which prevents potential life-threatening issues.  The stockings help by applying  firm pressure on the ankle, and gradually reducing pressure as they move up the leg. 

People with deep vein thrombosis (DVT), or blood-clots, in the leg can especially benefit from graduated compression stockings.  Wearing compression hose may reduce the risk of post-thrombotic syndrome that may lead to another blood clot in the future. Post-thrombotic syndrome is characterized by pain and swelling in the leg, and in some cases, changes in skin color or texture, as well as reduced circulation that increases the risk of more blood clots.  Of course, compression tights can help keep down the swelling and relieve pain and prevent life-threatening conditions such as embolism (dislodged blood clot that blocks the main artery or the lungs).

If you've recently had surgery or are bedridden for any reason, support hose can help stop developing DVT.  Medical hose can also prevent edema, which is  fluid swelling in the legs.

Pregnancy compression hose can help to alleviate some discomfort when you're expecting.  Pregnant women tend to have a host of leg problems including leg cramping and pain, leg fatigue and ankle swelling.  These issues inevitably occur since the expanding belly and extra pressure form the baby causes the veins to dilate and work less efficiently.   Support stockings can aid in a more comfortable pregnancy.

Other reasons why you may need compression panty hose include:

  • General tiredness, soreness, or heavy feeling in the legs
  • Ankle or leg swelling due to edema
  • Tingling, pins-and-needles sensation or numbness in the legs or feet
  • Leg pain from sitting and standing for prolonged periods of time
  • Family History of circulation and vein problems. / CC BY 2.0 / CC BY 2.0

How to Get the Most Out of Compression Hose

Putting on compression stockings may be challenging if you have severe pain or a significantly swollen leg. To make it a bit easier, lie down first and raise your feet above the level of your heart for several minutes to reduce the swelling in your legs and ankles as much as possible. Then put on the stockings as you would any pair of socks or pantyhose. Below are more tips to getting the best out of your compression support hose:

  • Wear compression socks or stockings daily, putting them on first thing in the morning.
  • If you can't wear stockings all day, wear them for a few hours at a time.  As you get use to wearing them, gradually increase the amount of time everyday.
  • Keep legs and feet warm to promote good circulation.
  • Take notice of weight loss or gain as this may affect the fit.
  • Pay special attention to washing instructions.
  • Do not allow wrinkles in the stockings.
  • Do not fold, roll, cut or alter your stockings.
  • If you experience prolonged numbness, tingling, or a bluish discoloration, remove the hose immediately.

Features and Cost of Compression Socks and Hose

Originally, support hose were only available in one style, knee-high, and one color, white, with a slim variety of sizes.   However, as medical professionals started to diagnose certain conditions early, the need for these stockings have increased considerably.

You can now find medical compression hose in different shades of tan and black, though you may be hard pressed to find some in white since they've been discontinued by most manufacturers.  Support stocking are also available in a range of compression ratios to accommodate mild to more severe leg problems.  You can also find them in many styles for both men and women including, thigh highs, waist-high, pantyhose, travel socks, knee-highs, and maternity pantyhose.   Stockings are often sold individually since it is common to only need one compression stocking.

Depending on the length, style, and quality the cost of support hose ranges from $17 to more than $100.  However, compression hose are recognized as a medically accepted device and many insurance companies cover the cost with a doctor's prescription.  Only the stockings with the lowest compression ratio are available without a prescription, and these can be purchased through drugstores or online retailers.



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