How Do Chronic Venous Insufficiency Compression Stockings Work?

Chronic venous insufficiency sounds like a very serious condition. You’ll be right to want to find all possible solutions to alleviate your symptoms and look at reducing the long-term effects of this condition on your body. You’re in luck: compression socks are one of the best ways to tackle it!

Because chronic venous insufficiency is caused by poor blood circulation from your veins towards your heart, stimulating blood flow is the key to making you feel better and reducing its effects. 

In this article, we’ll cover what is chronic venous insufficiency, how compression stockings and socks come to your rescue when you suffer from it, and how to find the best garments for your situation.  

What is Chronic Venous Insufficiency?

Firstly, you may be wondering about the symptoms and onset of chronic venous insufficiency. This is a condition caused by your leg veins not allowing blood to flow back up to your heart. 

Let’s back up a little. Your body has a circulatory system (also known as the cardiovascular system) which is designed to allow your heart to pump blood throughout it. Blood goes from the heart to the lungs, where it collects oxygen. Then, through the arteries, it travels to everywhere else. Once oxygenated blood arrives in all organs and extremities (down to your lower limbs), it then travels back as oxygen-poor blood through the veins, to the heart. And the process starts up again.

If you have a blocker at any one point, domino-effect problems can arise in your organs, muscles and tissues. So, if the veins in your legs are blocking this circulation, we have a problem.

compression socks of multiple patterns

What are the symptoms of chronic venous insufficiency?

If you suffer from this condition, you are likely to experience:

  • Pain and swelling in the legs;
  • Feeling tightness in your calf muscles;
  • Itchiness;
  • More pain when you walk, releasing when you rest;
  • Leg cramps;
  • Skin changes;
  • Varicose veins;
  • Leg ulcers.

Who’s at risk of this condition?

Not everyone is likely to experience chronic venous insufficiency. This condition is usually caused by being overweight and can appear during pregnancy. It’s also common in those who already have a family history of it. You could also develop it after a leg injury, after surgery or if you’ve previously suffered from blood clots.

How Do Chronic Venous Insufficiency Compression Stockings Work?

One of the main ways to cope with this circulatory issue is compression therapy for chronic venous insufficiency. This is because the act of compressing the lower limbs, including calf muscles and ankles, stimulates the blood flow to that region. This enables blood to move upwards in the body, back to the heart, and in the regular cycle of blood flow that keeps us healthy.

Compression socks work by applying gentle pressure to the ankle and lower leg area. This stimulates the blood flow and helps eliminate or reduce other connected symptoms, like swelling and pain. Wearing graduated compression stockings or socks is even better: the pressure starts at the ankle, gradually easing as the garment climbs up the leg. 

So, if you’re after a pair of compression stockings to alleviate your symptoms, we recommend starting with graduated compression and consulting with a medical professional as to the level of pressure you should begin with. In any case, compression is the right way to approach this condition!

Which Symptoms of Chronic Venous Insufficiency Can Benefit from Wearing Compression Socks?

Chronic venous insufficiency manifests itself by making your legs painful and swollen. These are the key areas where compression socks provide a welcome relief. Through the gradual pressure applied from the ankle upwards, these garments stop blood from pooling around your ankles. Pushing it back into the regular circulatory flow, compression socks increase your comfort and decrease negative feelings in the lower limbs.

Moreover, compression socks have been found to have other benefits that could help someone suffering from chronic venous insufficiency. They not only stimulate blood flow, but the gentle pressure relieves pain and swelling and gives a sense of lighter, more energized legs. This is why people who travel long distances (think long flights or even road trips) benefit from compression stockings or socks. 

Wearing compression socks during walking or exercising keeps your muscles supported and ensures oxygenated blood continues to flow well through your lower limbs. After exercise, it’s a great idea to elevate your legs, but also to wear compression socks that will help with muscle recovery, too. 

Additionally, patients with blood clots or varicose veins are regularly prescribed compression socks for their doctors. These side effects of chronic venous insufficiency are linked to poor blood flow, so it’s no wonder that compression socks can aid them. 

Finally, if you’re pregnant, you are at a higher risk of chronic venous insufficiency. You’ll also suffer from symptoms like swollen legs and ankles, discomfort, and possibly leg cramps. For all these, compression socks offer a welcome relief. 

How Long to Wear Compression Stockings for Chronic Venous Insufficiency

Generally, the advice for first-time wearers is to keep their compression stockings or socks on for the whole day, then to take them off at night. However, this varies widely depending on your condition, your comfort levels, and your activity.

Start off by wearing compression stockings for chronic venous insufficiency in line with your doctor’s recommendations, but not for 24 hours at a time. But, if you find that you become too constricted or uncomfortable after a few hours of wear, there’s no problem with taking the socks off for a break.

For casual wearers, we often advise to start wearing compression socks for 2-3 hours at a time, then increase gradually. You can even wear your socks for 24 hours, but remember you’ll need to take them off and wash them!

For patients whose chronic venous insufficiency has been officially diagnosed, please always refer to your medical advice first and foremost. 

How Much Compression Do You Need for Venous Insufficiency?

Your doctor will assess the level of compression required for your particular case of venous insufficiency. Typically, a pressure level of 20-30 mmHg in graduated compression socks is advised

However, if you’re thinking about wearing compression socks to relieve symptoms like swollen legs and ankles, itchiness and pain, but aren’t yet diagnosed or haven’t discussed this with a doctor, we recommend you start with a lower level of compression. Socks with compression levels of 15-20 mmHg are great for everyday wear, for taking on a long flight or for use for post-exercise recovery. Moreover, starting with lighter compression levels for your first pair of such garments will help you adjust to the pressure and allow you to increase it later if you feel this is necessary (or if that’s your prescription).

To learn more about compression levels and what mmHg is all about, read our complete guide here.

Why Choose Graduated Compression Socks for Venous Insufficiency?

In most medical circles, compression is considered a cornerstone of treating chronic venous insufficiency. This is simply thanks to the fact that good-quality graduated compression stockings support good blood circulation. In turn, this keeps your legs fresher and lighter. It also avoids the formation of blood clots, and it supports your blood travelling back up to the heat as it should do. 

The benefit of wearing graduated compression stockings is that the pressure applied is stronger around the ankles, gradually decreasing towards the knee. This is important because it is exactly the direction in which you want to stimulate your blood flow if you have venous insufficiency.

Choosing compression socks for this condition is an easy and effective first step towards treatment. We also recommend pairing them with exercise and with elevating your legs after long days on your feet and whenever you feel the need for a bit of relief. For more serious conditions requiring additional medical treatment, there are options like medicines and other therapies that you need to consult with your doctor about. 

The Best Compression Socks for Chronic Venous Insufficiency

Finding the perfect socks for compression wear doesn’t need to be difficult. Start off by establishing the level of compression you need, then check out all the styles and colors in our wide range of compression socks and stockings. 

For a better match, consider what activities you’ll be doing when you wear your compression socks for venous insufficiency. If you’re going for a long walk or a light jog, wearing Merino wool socks is a good choice for their breathability and moisture wicking properties. If it’s just style points you’re after and wearing your socks for daily activities, you can of course opt for classic cotton. You’ll also get different other benefits from fabrics like Nylon.

Don’t hesitate to start off with one trial pair and wear those until you’re fully comfortable with the feeling of compression. We think you’ll notice an improvement immediately! Once you’re fully committed, we recommend buying 2-3 spare pairs so you can rotate them and ensure you care for them properly.

Shop all of our 20-30 mmHg compression socks here!

man wearing cotton compression socks with his dog


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