Probably you already heard about compression socks and its uses in long flights, running or even professions like nurses. But are you still wondering if you need them and what are its benefits?… Well, we will answer all of your questions and advise you about the best compression socks for flying and for traveling.
What are compression socks?
Compression socks are made of elastic fabric so they compress the surface of the veins, arteries, and muscles of your limbs. Graduated compression socks are tightest at the ankles and gradually become less tight on the knees or thigh.
Are compression socks good?
And why is that good?… Well, compression socks help your veins in the task of carrying deoxygenated blood to the heart.
Due to diverse causes, our veins tend to distend, and the valves that prevent backflow of the blood aren’t able to function well. By compressing the veins, arteries, and muscles, compression socks narrow the size of veins, increasing the pressure thus promoting the return of the blood to the heart. In addition, they help veins regain their right shape enabling the main valves to function properly preventing backflow.
Compression socks also prevent the formation of blood clots, Deep vein thrombosis (DVT), which are caused by stenosis of the blood in the legs. These clots can even potentiate a life-threatening condition, pulmonary embolism.
So yes, compression socks are good for you and sometimes even essential.
Are compression socks really necessary?
Well yes, especially in certain people and situations. As we said before compression socks increase blood flow and valve effectiveness. And these aspects are important in people with a tendency for bad circulation and fluid retention. People that feel their legs heavy or tired at the end of the day. And people that have spider veins and venose insufficiencies.
Plus, in situations that involve prolonged sitting, like long airplane flights, prolonged standing or static positions.
They are mainly necessary for people are at risk of DVT, as we describe below.
Why do you need compression socks for long flights?
During long-haul flights, there is an increased risk of DVT, due to the restriction of movement, the gravity and traveler’s inactivity during 7 or more hours. This condition is known as the “Economy class stroke syndrome”.
According to the guidelines of the American College of Chest Physicians (ACCP) of 2012, DVT or a pulmonary embolism caused by a long-distance flight is generally unlikely but has an increased risk when you have one or more risk factors.
The same guideline didn’t find evidence to support that traveling in economy class increases the risk of developing blood clots. However remaining immobile for a long period of time does. These guidelines recommend the use of graduate below-the-knee compression stocking on long-haul flights, especially if you have risk factors.
In conclusion, using compression socks during a long flight is advised especially if you have a risk factor for DVT. Even if you don’t, but have bad circulation or tendency to edemas and fell your legs heavy, using compression socks is well-considered.
How to choose compression socks for travel
|Compression Socks||Compression Rate||Ideal||Material||Rate||Price|
|Sockwell circulator||15-20 mmHg|
Cushioned toes, heel
|Vital sox VT1211||12-20 mmHg|
|SB Sox Lit||15- 20 mmHg|
Cushioned toes, heel
|Truform||15- 20 mmHg|
Silky, trouser socks
|Danish Endurance||18- 21 mmHg|
|Physix Gear||20- 30 mmHg|
The main feature in compression socks is their ability to compress gradually. The compression factor in socks varies from 15 mmHg to 40 mmHg. Compression socks with higher pressure (from 20 mmHg to 40 mmHg) can only be worn with medical advice and prescription. Low-pressure socks (15-20 mmHg) can be purchased without a prescription. You will find plenty of sites selling (and suggesting) compression socks with high-pressure rates but we only advise you to buy if it was recommended by your doctor. For that reason, in this article, we only recommend socks with a compression rating of 15-20 mmHg, with the exception of Physix Gear Compression Socks which you should only buy if you have a medical recommendation.
When buying compression socks be aware of the ideal size for you. The size of the sock influences the compression rate. If the socks are too big for they won’t offer any compression if they too small they will block the blood flow. Below we explain how to measure your legs so that you choose the right sock size. We also mention and explain all other factors to take in consideration when choosing compression socks.
Best compression socks for long flights
Sockwell circulator compression socks have 4 zones of graduated compression with a gradient of 15-20 mmHg. They are made of Spandex, Nylon, Wool and Bamboo Ragon, which absorb moisture so it helps you keep your feet dry. Sockwell socks have 2 cool features they have non-abrasive seamless toe closure so the seam won’t irritate your toes. Also, they have a cushioned sole providing support to the foot arch. The other advantage is that they are machine washable. On the downside, they may be hot in summer so be aware if you are using them in hot climates, though it won’t be a problem if you are using them in airplanes.
Vitalsox VT1211 Silver DryStat
The Vitalsox compression socks have an optimal system of graduate compression varying between 12- 20 mmHg. Moreover, these socks have an exclusive type of material Silver Drystat witch promotes quick drying, repels bacteria and diminish odor. Its material also has the advantage of stretching in different directions making it easier to put on. They are ideal for traveling, running, hiking and even during work. Plus, you can choose the color that suits you better as they have a big variety of colors. On the downside, these socks tend to be warm, so not the ideal for hot weathers. But, again, if you are using them only during long-haul travels, this won’t be a major problem.
SB Sox Lit
SB Sox Lit compression socks are graduated with a compression rate from 15 – 20 mmHg. They are made of a breathable and lightweight fabric, nylon and Spandex, which is ideal for traveling. Plus, they wicking moisture away, stopping the growth of bacterias and fungus and are anti-odor. The best part of these socks is that they are cushioned in the toe and heel so they reduce the shock on your foot while walking or running. The downside of these socks is they can be scratchy.
Best compression socks for pregnancy flying
Truform Compression stocking
Truform compression stocking 1773 promote a graduated compression of 15-20 mmHg. They are stylish and fashionable. These stockings are designed for women and are ideal for traveling, working and during pregnancy. They will be looking great with any outfit, particularly dresses or skirts. With a smooth and breathable material, they are perfect for summer. They are made of nylon and spandex and are available in beige and black. The disadvantage of these socks is that they need to be hand washed.
Best compression socks for edema
Danish endurance compression socks are graduated with a compression rating of 18-21 mmHg, ideal for people that have swollen legs and aren’t used to wearing compression socks. These socks have a high-quality stitching, made of Polyamide and Elasthan. They are breathable, absorb moisture with anti-bacterial yarns. The great thing about this socks is that they aren’t too hot and have a padded footbed. You can machine wash them.
Best compression socks for varicose veins (more than 20 mmHg)
Physix Gear Compression Socks
If you already have risk factors, like varicose veins and your Physician already advised you to wear compression socks, Physix gear socks are the ones. They have a compression gradient of 20-30 mmHg and are graduated, two factors that you really need. Plus, they have the bonus of having an Anti-Bacterial fabric reducing the bad odors. Physix gear socks don’t have stitches in places where you rub the most. They are made of Nylon and Spandex, they are durable and won’t lose compression with washing. Although they wick away moisture very well, they tend to be warm. Ideal for traveling, running and day-to-day life. These socks are good value for money.
What to have in consideration when choosing compression socks?
The best pressure rating of compression socks
Compression socks are available with several pressures, but we only advise you to buy low-pressure socks, from 15-20 mmHg. For higher pressure, you must be advised by a healthcare professional or your doctor.
Mild compression socks (15-20 mmHg) are indicated for the prevention and relief of minor to moderate varicose veins, relief of tired aching legs, relief of minor swelling of feet and legs.
Moderate compression socks (20-30 mmHg) are indicated for the prevention and relief of moderate to severe varicose veins, treatment of moderate to severe lymphoedema and management of active ulcers or pos thrombotic syndrome.
Firm compression socks (30-40 mmHg) are indicated for ulcers management, post-thrombotic syndrome.
The compression of the socks depends on the size of the leg, thus it is important to choose the right size. If you feel that the socks cut into the leg, they are too small.
The size of the compression socks
Size is very important if you buy socks too big for your leg they don’t offer any compression if you buy too small they can provoke a tourniquet effect.
So, for the ideal size, you will need to measure your leg. The ideal time to measure is in the morning before the swelling occurs. Measure: circumference of your ankle; circumference of your calf; length of your calf (knee to heel sitting with your legs at a 90º angle).
Important note: Pay attention to the color, temperature, and sensation of your toes, if there are differences seek medical guidance.
If they are graduated Compression socks
For the ideal effect, compression socks have to be graduated, that means they offer more compression at the ankles and gradually become less tight on the knees or thigh. So, when you buy be aware if they are graduated.
The material of Compression socks
The quality of the material is very important, if you want the compression socks to be effective they have to have the right compression and be graduate for a long period of time. If you sacrifice on the quality you will lose on their primary function. Thus, buy compression socks with good quality so they won’t fail to give the compression you need.
In addition, the type of material is important, one of the disadvantages of compression socks is they can be hot and become itchy. In winter it is good having hot socks but in summer if they are too hot you will suffer. So, choose the material according to the climate you are traveling to.
Also, choose breathable materials like Nylon, polyester, wool, Cool Max, lycra, and Spandex, that helps to maintain your feet dry and comfortable.
The type of compression socks
You will find two types of compression socks, knee-high socks, and thigh-high socks. Although in some cases the thigh-high socks are recommended, normally the knee-high socks are more comfortable and easier to use.
The purpose of compression socks
Besides traveling, you can and should use compression socks in your day-to-day life, especially if you have a profession where you stand for long hours. Even for running, plenty of athletes use them for recovering and/or during the practices of the sport.
Although there isn’t research supporting this, athletes believe that compression socks assist in blood circulation, reduce blood lactate concentration, and control the amount of muscle oscillation.
When choosing compression socks to be aware of the use you are going to give them.
How to put on compression socks
It can be difficult to put on compression socks especially if the gradient of compression is high. The easiest way to put the socks on is, first of all, to turn the socks inside out. Then slide your foot in the sock until the heel (make sure it is aligned properly). Next, gradually roll the remaining sock up the leg until the knee. Note, the socks shouldn’t cut into your leg. With time and use it will become easier and you will find out what works for you.
Who needs compression socks the most?
The people who need compression socks the most are those at risk to develop DVT (deep vein thrombosis). According to the NHS (National Health Service), “anyone can develop DVT, but there are certain risk factors”:
- Increasing age
- Previous venous thromboembolism
- A family history of thrombosis
- Medical conditions as cancer and heart failure
- After an operation
- Being overweight or obese
- Oestrogen use, including oral contraception
- Long-haul flight
- Window seat
If you have one or more risk factors you should equate using compression socks, especially during long-haul flights.
Be aware that in certain conditions you can’t use compression socks, like when you have peripheral vascular diseases, diabetic patients, heart failure, oozing dermatitis, and peripheral neuropathy. Patients who suffer from these conditions should be advised by their physician.
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