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Understanding Support Stockings and Compression Hosiery

It can seem mysterious at first. Socks and hosiery that can make you feel better and prevent health problems simply by squeezing your legs when worn? Or unknown product categories, like 20-25 mmHg compression? How do you know that compression weight level to choose?

Well, admittedly it may seem mysterious and confusing in the beginning, but support stocking and compression hosiery are actually very simple and not difficult to understand at all.

What Is Compression Hosiery?

For example, is the name "support stocking" or "compression hosiery"? Actually, they both mean the same thing when you're talking about genuine, quality products in this field. While some common, inexpensive socks or panty hose may claim to be "support stockings," they often are simply hosiery that has been made to squeeze your leg when worn. Genuine, gradient compression hosiery is actually a more accurate term, since it describes a high quality product that is manufactured to provide a measurable level of compression that has been proven to provide significant health benefits.

What these products provide is called gradient compression, which means that the amount of compression (the pressure on your leg) is the greatest at the ankle and then decreases as it moves up the leg. This gradient compression encourages circulation by pumping the blood through the ankles with increase force. Producing hosiery that provides a carefully measured, yet varying amount of compression for your leg, is a complicated process that requires careful manufacturing control.

Understanding Compression Measurements

And those mysterious numbers with the "mmHg" after them? That's simply how the amount of compression is measures. What the mmHg means is "millimeters of mercury." (Remember that high school chemistry class when you had to memorize the chemical abbreviations? Yes, Hg was the one for mercury.) That type of measurement is the same one used in weather forecasting for measuring atmospheric pressure. Low pressure and you can expect stormy weather.

In compression hosiery, the higher the number in front of the "mmHg," the more compression or support that particular product will be providing. In general there are three levels of compression hosiery products:

 15-20mmHg is commonly called "firm compression." This level of support is often used to prevent health problems in the leg. People who spend a great deal of time on their feet each day, or who are stuck sitting in cramped quarters for a long time (such as on a long airline flight or simply sitting behind a desk all day), find this level of support can bring almost immediate relief while also helping avoid health issues such as blood clots, swollen ankles or legs, or varicose veins. This level of compression may also be recommended by doctors for conditions such as minor leg swelling or mild cases of varicose veins.

20-25 mmHg is referred to as "extra-firm compression." This level of compression can help relieve moderate to severe varicose veins and is often recommended or prescribed by doctors for post-surgical care.

 20-30 mmHg or 30-40 mmHg is called "surgical weight compression" and is the level of compression a physician would recommend to deal with a more serious health problem, such as severe varicose veins or severe edema.

How Compression Hosiery Can Prevent Foot And Leg Problems

While much compression hosiery is worn on a doctor's recommendation or prescription to deal with serious leg health issues, growing numbers of people are finding that quality, graduated compression can make a real difference in everyday life, even though they aren't suffering from a real health issue.

Sitting at a desk or in an airplane seat for a long period of time can cause compression of the blood vessels in the leg, making circulation more difficult. The result can be not only leg pain and perhaps mild swelling the legs or ankles, but it can also increase your risk for future leg health problems, such as blood clots or varicose veins. Compression hosiery at the firm compression level, in effect is massaging your legs all day, resulting in improved circulation, better feeling legs and feet at the end of the day, and a decreased risk for future health problems.

Quality compression hosiery now also comes in a such a wide variety of colors and styles that it's easy to find choices that are fashionable and impossible for others to recognize as compression hosiery.

Of course, if you have a medical condition for which you feel compression hosiery might be helpful, your first step should be in talking to your physician. While compression hosiery may be the right choice for a variety of health problems, your physician should be the one to advise you on the best choices to make.

But the bottom line is that compression hosiery is not a mystery. It's a product that is carefully made to provide real and significant health benefits, and that's something we all can understand.

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