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Compression Therapy and Garments

What is compression therapy

Compression therapy is a treatment based on the principle of applying pressure on an effected limb with the help of an elastic garment. This is a simple and effective way of improving blood flow through the limbs and useful in treating conditions like tired and achy legs, swelling in the limbs, chronic venous insufficiency, phlebitis, varicose veins, healed or active venous ulcers and lymphedema.

Compression therapy is also useful during long distance travel to avoid blood clotting complications.

How does compression therapy work

Compression therapy uses gradient compression principle by which the pressure is strongest at the ankle and reduces going up the leg. For the arm, the greatest pressure is applied at the wrist and decreases as you go up.

Compression therapy is provided when you wear specialized compressionsocks or compression stockings. These are special garments designed to apply pressure on the limb with graduated compression thereby pressing the extended vein walls together and getting the valves to close.

When you wear a compression stocking, for example, pressure is applied subcutaneously, that is on the tissue under the skin. This pushes the excess fluid, which is the cause of the swelling, back into the capillaries bringing down the puffiness. Thus, a compression garment helps reduce venous pressure, prevent venous stasis and impair of venous walls.

Due to compression, the superficial veins in the leg are also not able to expand and overfill with blood thus preventing the backward flow of blood which would otherwise lead to congestion and thereby, swelling.

Thus, compression wear has gradient pressure to counter the effects of high venous pressures. And contrary to what some people may think, compression garments help with blood circulation and do not restrict or cut it off.

Compression therapy benefits

Compression therapy benefits are several. A primary health benefit of compression therapy is providing effective compression for edema control. It helps overcome swelling in the legs thus providing relief from tired, achy feet. These garments also offer compression wound care with compression dressings for wound healing.

Types of graduated compression stockings

There are varying types of graduated compression stockings available in different pressures and length. Your doctor will advise you about which compression stocking you should buy…. whether you need light compression or a strong compression garment. You also may need to check with your physician whether your condition requires compression socks, compression stockings, compression pantyhose, compression gloves, gauntlets or armsleeves and if you should opt for knee length ones, thigh high or pantyhose style.

When not to wear compression socks

Before wearing a compression garment, it is imperative you consult your doctor. Not everyone can wear it because there are restrictions depending on certain medical conditions. If you have arterial circulation problems, you need your doctor’s advice before wearing one. Those with ischemia of the legs, untreated septic phlebitis, advanced peripheral neuropathy and uncontrolled congestive heart failure are medically not advised to wear a compression garment of any strength.

Again, caution is advised to those with skin infections, oozing dermatosis, allergy to the garment fabric, impaired sensitivity of the limb or immobility.

When to wear compression stockings

The right time to put on a compression garment is as soon as you wake up, that is first thing in the morning because that is when the swelling is down.

Also, your doctor is your best guide about how long you should wear the stockings. This decision will depend on the reason for wearing it. Those with venous related leg swellings and varicose veins usually wear them all day and take them off only when going to bed.