Compression stockings, also known as compression socks, or pressure socks, are used by all kinds of people, from pilots, flight attendants, runners, and nurses to pregnant women, people recovering from surgery, and people at risk for blood clots in their legs. But are compression socks dangerous? We here at Lifestyle Updated decided to make a little research and find the answer to that question.
What are compression stockings?
They are elastic garments that are worn around the leg, and their goal is to compress the limb. This, in turn, reduces the diameter of distended veins and increases venous blood flow velocity and valve effectiveness. In other words, they increase the arterial pressure, which causes more blood to return to the heart and less blood to pool in the feet.
Compression stockings are usually prescribed by a doctor to relieve all manifestations of chronic venous disease and prevent venous troubles. If you have one of the following conditions, chances are that you might already be wearing them:
- Chronic venous insufficiency
- Varicose veins
- Deep vein thrombosis
Because the primary function of compression socks is improving the blood flow in the legs, sometimes people who travel a lot, but are otherwise healthy, choose to wear them during long flights. This can significantly reduce their risk of DVT (deep vein thrombosis), as well as leg swelling (oedema).
Compression stockings and pregnancy also go hand in hand. Hormones released during the pregnancy and the expanding uterus itself (which adds pressure to the inferior vena cava – the major vein that is returning blood up to the heart) can affect leg veins. That’s why pregnant women wear them to prevent blood from pooling in the veins and to reduce the increase of an elevated heart rate in both them and their child.
On the other hand, athletes can also experience benefits from compression stockings. Wearing them while exercising is not a bad idea and in some cases, it’s even recommended for better results and healthier body.
My husband, for example, discovered compression socks while trying to figure out how to improve his athletic capacity. At the time, he was going over his first round of Core de Force – a program from Beachbody on Demand, created by Joel Freeman and Jericho McMatthews. Though progressing gradually, the workouts were still demanding, so compression socks helped immensely.
Last but not least, researchers found that compression socks may be a good way to improve the symptoms of obstructive sleep apnea, especially with patients who suffer from chronic venous insufficiency.
All in all, it seems like this “magical socks” can bring you only good, but like everything else in life, they also have a series of side effects, especially when they are not used correctly.
Side effects of wearing compressions stockings incorrectly
First of all, you need to understand that the use of compression stockings is definitely not an example of one size fits all. Quite to the contrary, the opposite is the case. Countless studies have discovered that the incorrect use of compression stockings, even in hospitals and other patient care facilities, is a fairly widespread problem.
An study example shows, in the American Journal of Nursing that compression stockings were used incorrectly on nearly 29% of patients. Additionally, 26% of the participants from the study wore the wrong stocking size.
When we are talking about side effects of wearing compression stockings, we are in fact referring to incorrect use.
So, can compression socks hurt you? The answer is positive, but only if you are not wearing them right!
If you use them incorrectly, or you wear the wrong size entirely, chances are that you will experience unpleasant side effects. First signs of trouble occur when the compression stockings are simply too hard to put on or equally challenging to take off; when they are the wrong type depending on the condition being treated, or when they are the wrong length. If you experience some of the following symptoms, take off your compression socks immediately and consult with your physician.
Do note, also, that problems with tight athletic footwear are usually mistaken for side effects of wearing compression socks.
When worn incorrectly, discomfort is among the first side effects of compression stockings. Some people feel pain after removing compression stockings, others suffer from discomfort, pain and unpleasant sensations in their legs while wearing them. This happens if you wear them for too long. This type of stockings should be worn during the day and be taken off before going to bed. While you sleep, gravity is having the same effect on your legs as the compression stockings while you are awake.
Corns and calluses
These hardened layers of skin develop when your skin tries to protect itself against friction and pressure. They can develop on the feet and toes from very tight compression stockings.
Feet tingling or numbness
Paresthesia is a sensation of tingling, pricking, or numbness of the skin. It is more generally known as the feeling of “pins and needles” or of a limb being “asleep”. This condition occurs if your compression socks are too tight for your legs.
Skin irritation and itching
Side effects of compression socks can include itching as well which can occur throughout the compressed area. If this happens, you should probably do an allergy test because your skin might be reacting on the fiber materials.
Joint pain in knees
Compression stockings actually help with joint pain in knees, but if you are wearing the wrong size you might experience the complete opposite. If this happens consult with your physician immediately.
Loss of circulation
This is another example of amplifying a problem that compression stockings are designed to help with. If you wear them correctly, they help with your circulation. But, if they don’t fit in some way, a loss of circulation will be one of the first signs.
Spasms in toes
If you experience a sudden, violent, involuntary contraction of any muscle in your toe, or toes, accompanied by sudden pain and function interference, producing sudden and involuntary movement as well as distortion, your compression stockings are doing more harm than good for your body.
Swelling in toes
The same goes for swelling in toes. You’ll know the compression socks are doing their job if you experience no side effects whatsoever.
You should have at least two stockings. Which makes sense since you’ll be ordering them in a pair. However, if you’re wearing them on both legs, then you should order two pairs. Then, you can wear one of the stockings, or a pair, while the other is being washed and dried to prevent odor and keep your hygiene.
Conclusion on the side effects of wearing compression stockings
After a thorough research, we can guarantee that wearing compression socks is not dangerous in any way, if they are used properly. In fact, a lot of people can benefit from them. It doesn’t matter if you are a man or a woman, with or without health problems. Some side effects of wearing compression socks can occur, but they are minor and usually can be easily solved by getting a new pair, better fitted for your legs.