Benefits of compression socks

Swelling of the feet and ankles is a common problem among older people, reports the U.S. National Library of Medicine. If swollen feet is a problem for you, your doctor may recommend compression socks. Compression socks, also called compression hose or pressure stockings, can help improve blood flow in the legs, according to the U.S. National Library of Medicine. The gentle squeezing of compression socks can help move blood up the legs, which helps prevents swelling and even helps lower the risk of blood clots. Compression socks can also help with the aching or heavy feeling in the legs. According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, your doctor may also recommend compression socks to treat varicose veins or spider veins.

What are compression socks?

Compression socks come in many different colors and patterns. They usually have some sort of elastic material in them, such as spandex or elastane. Compression socks are usually tightest at the ankle and gradually decrease in pressure up the leg. They can stop at the knee or go all the way to the thigh. Compression socks come in different levels of pressure. Ask your doctor which level of compression she recommends for you.

You may have to measure your leg to find the proper fit for your compression sock. If the compression socks are too small you may not be able to get them on, and if they are too loose they may not do their job. Measure in the morning, especially if your legs and ankles swell throughout the day. For knee-high compression socks you take three measurements. You will measure your ankle at the narrowest part, the calf at the widest part, and the calf length from the bend of the knee to the floor. Knee-length compression socks should come to two fingers below the knee bend. For thigh-high compression socks you will take four measurements. Measure the narrowest part of the ankle, the widest part of the calf, the widest part of the thigh and the length of the leg from the bottom of buttocks to the floor. Compare these measurements to your vendor’s size chart. A medical equipment store may be able to do these measurements for you.

Does Medicare cover compression socks?

Medicare generally does not cover compression socks. Medicare may cover socks used with a lymphedema pump. These socks or sleeves could be used on your legs or your arms and the lymphedema pump pumps air into them. Unlike compression socks, you cannot wear lymphedema pump socks under your clothes.

You may be able to get compression socks for free if you have additional benefits beyond Medicare, such as Veteran’s Affairs benefits. If you buy compression stockings on your own, you may be able to find a pair for under $30 at a drug store.

Wearing your compression socks

Wear your compression socks pulled all the way up without bunching or wrinkling. If it’s difficult to pull the sock up, use a special gadget called a stocking donner that you can purchase at a medical supply store or online.

Put your compression socks on first thing in the morning when your legs are the least swollen. Ask your doctor how long each day you should wear your compression socks. It’s a good idea to have at least two pairs of compression stockings: one to wear and one to wash and dry. You should wash the compression socks every day with mild soap and water, according to the U.S. National Library of Medicine. Replace the stockings every three to six months so they maintain their elasticity and support. The compression socks should not be uncomfortable; if they are, call your doctor.

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