Fibromyalgia can cause chronic pain throughout the body, without an available cure except for managing its symptoms. Legs and arms are most often affected, so anything you can do to reduce swelling, irritation and discomfort in these areas is key.
Thanks to the gentle massage and blood flow stimulation that compression socks provide, they can help reduce pain and swelling from fibromyalgia. They also offer support for the joints and added stability when exercising, which is essential for fibromyalgia patients who are less active.
Read on to see how compression socks can provide some pain relieving benefits for fibromyalgia patients, as well as how you should choose yours.
How Compression Works for Fibromyalgia
Although there is no cure for fibromyalgia, its symptoms can be managed and you can seek pain relief through various therapies and aides. Compression can provide relief from swelling and localized pain, while also offering support during physical activity.
Fibromyalgia pain is often felt in the legs and arms. Wearing compression socks, which massage and support the limbs, can help you feel more secure in everyday activities or during exercise. They also help by boosting blood flow, reducing the likelihood of blood pooling in the lower legs, and energizing the limbs.
Benefits of Compression Clothing for Fibromyalgia
Compression therapy offers a multitude of benefits linked to improved circulation and muscle support and massage. For fibromyalgia in particular, compression socks can help reduce pain and swelling in the lower legs, while boosting blood flow throughout the body. The tight grip they have on the ankles and feet is also welcome for improving support and stability.
Relieves Fibromyalgia Pain
The pain caused by fibromyalgia can be felt as a dull ache or as throbbing in the lower legs. Graduated compression socks apply gentle pressure to the calf muscles and shins, massaging that area and helping reduce the pain. For more coverage, compression tights can be great for relieving pain all through the length of the legs.
Some of the peripheral pain fibromyalgia patients experience can be linked to poor blood flow or swelling (from fluid retention or from blood pooling in the limbs). Compression socks not only reduce the likelihood of blood pooling in one part of the body (through boosting blood flow), they also help bring down inflammation and swelling. This can have a beneficial effect in reducing fibromyalgia pain as well.
As swelling and pain can often be experienced together, this is one area where compression socks can make an important difference for fibromyalgia patients. Graduated compression garments are tighter towards the feet and looser towards the knee, which stimulates the blood flow upwards and prevents any fluid build-up around the ankles.
This helps keep legs feeling lighter and more energized throughout the day, especially if you’re on your feet a lot. For those with reduced mobility due to chronic illness, who may be sitting or lying down for long stretches of time, stimulating blood flow in this way is also essential.
When you struggle with pain throughout the body, as in the case of fibromyalgia, you may be tempted to reduce activity levels significantly. This can cause circulatory problems, such as swelling and fluid build-up, but can also lead to worse issues down the road - for example, varicose veins or blood clots. Compression socks are ideal for combatting these issues: they stimulate blood flow, prevent fluid build-up, and are easy to wear in almost any conditions.
Enhances Joint Stability
Finally, when exercising while suffering from chronic pain, compression socks help support the joints and deliver a boost of stability and support. This is all the more important to those who are not used to exercising. Compression socks are regularly used by athletes recovering from injuries like Achilles’ tendonitis or ankle sprains - helping them regain their footing after an enforced break. For fibromyalgia patients, the concept is the same: a tight grip on the lower limbs improves stability and support, while boosting blood flow.
Types of Compression Clothing for Fibromyalgia
It’s not just socks that can help with symptoms of fibromyalgia. Studies show that compression or thermal gloves are beneficial for reducing pain, while sleeves and tights can focus on different parts of the body.
Knee-high compression socks support the ankles, feet, and lower legs, boosting peripheral circulation and giving extra stability and an ongoing lower leg massage. They are proven to combat muscle fatigue and soreness, while also reducing the risk of blood clots, swelling, and discomfort.
For full-leg coverage, compression tights deliver the same benefits as the socks, only for the whole leg and the groin. This can be relevant for those suffering from knee or hip joint pain as part of their fibromyalgia. They are also great for warmth and overall support during activity or while resting.
Sleeves can be worn either on the arms or on the calf muscles. Worn on the legs, they allow you to focus support on the calves and shins, reducing the pain of walking or jumping. They are also effective for those suffering from shin splints. Arm compression sleeves support the elbow joint and offer relief from pain in the arms all the way down to the wrists.
Many fibromyalgia or arthritis sufferers swear by compression or thermal gloves. They can help stabilize the delicate wrist joints and the multitude of delicate bones in the hand, while also protecting the hands and improving circulation and thermal regulation.
Tips for Selecting Compression Wear for Fibromyalgia
It’s important to use the most appropriate types of compression garments for your situation, taking into account the level of pressure applied, the sizing, and the material they’re made from. Here are our tips for compression socks in particular.
Understanding Compression Levels
Compression garments apply pressure on the body in different levels, from everyday wear to medical grade. For graduated compression socks, you have a choice of:
- 15-20 mmHg - the lightest, yet effective, casual compression that you can feel working on the limbs while also allowing you to carry on with a range of activities, or resting;
- 20-30 mmHg - firm compression which is effective against circulatory problems and often recommended for recovery from injury or during pregnancy;
- 30-40 mmHg - medical grade socks that are available only on prescription, recommended to patients suffering from lymphedema, venous insufficiency, or deep vein thrombosis.
You should consult with your doctor to determine the most appropriate option for you.
Finding the Right Size and Fit
To be effective, compression socks need to be tight so they can provide support and stimulate blood flow, but not so much that they start to hurt. Similarly, if you wear a compression garment too loose, it won’t achieve its goal and can become a nuisance (for example, rolling down the legs in the case of socks!).
This is why we recommend using a sizing guide that matches your shoe size against the circumference of your calf muscle. Then, follow this step-by-step guide to putting on compression socks which will ensure you avoid any uncomfortable spots or a bad fit.
Depending on personal preference, weather conditions, or activity levels, there’s more than just cotton to compression socks for fibromyalgia. While cotton is great for everyday wear and gives you lots of choice of styles and designs, it’s not as good at wicking away moisture or regulating temperature.
When you suffer from chronic pain, you’re likely to also get cold feet - partly because of inactivity, partly because of poor circulation. This is where merino wool compression socks tick all the boxes: the soft material is great at keeping your feet warm, wicking away moisture, and defending against allergies or infections. Since merino wool is very gentle on the skin, it can be worn by those with sensitivities, too.
Finally, you can opt for nylon compression socks for walking or running, as this material is very sleek and flexible. These socks will support the muscles and joints while exercising, all while providing a gentle massage to the lower legs.
How to Wear Compression Clothing Effectively
While there is no set limit of time for wearing compression socks, it’s important to make them part of your routine when managing fibromyalgia pain. Here are a few tips around wearing them effectively.
Duration and Frequency of Use
You will need to put on your socks for a minimum of 2-3 hours to get some benefits to the muscles and peripheral circulation. However, if you’re completely new to wearing compression socks, we recommend starting with a short amount of time (for example, a couple of hours) and increase this progressively as you feel comfortable.
You may find wearing compression socks during activity the most beneficial. However, they are also a top choice during recovery and rest, as well as before working out as a “warming up” aide. No matter which way you choose to wear your compression socks, it’s important to adapt depending on feedback from your body.
The Importance of Consistency
Just like any treatment, consistency is key to seeing improvements with compression wear. Patients suffering from chronic pain, rheumatoid arthritis, or fibromyalgia can all benefit from reducing swelling, massaging painful areas, and bringing down inflammation. Wearing compression socks for a few hours a day can lead to a visible decrease in swelling and circulatory improvements quite rapidly, provided you wear them consistently.
Answering Your Frequently Asked Questions
What is Fibromyalgia?
Fibromyalgia is a chronic medical condition that causes pain and tenderness throughout the body. It is a long-lasting health problem and can also cause tiredness and trouble sleeping. There is no clear consensus as to what causes fibromyalgia. There is also no specific cure. However, fibromyalgia can be managed through movement therapy, certain other types of therapy, and medication.
What are the Symptoms of Fibromyalgia?
Those suffering from fibromyalgia can expect to exhibit the following symptoms:
- Chronic, widespread pain in multiple parts of the body (or in the whole body) - most often, fibromyalgia patients have pain in their arms and legs, head, chest, abdominal area, back, and buttocks. This pain is felt like either an ache or burning sensation, but some also describe it as throbbing;
- Fatigue and overwhelming lack of energy;
- Trouble sleeping.
Additionally, you could experience:
- Muscle and joint stiffness;
- Feeling tender to the touch;
- Numb or tingly arms and legs;
- A hard time focusing and thinking clearly, even possibly memory problems;
- Heightened sensitivity to light, noise, odors, and temperature changes;
- Digestive problems, including bloating or constipation.
Who Shouldn’t Wear Compression Clothing for Fibromyalgia?
Patients suffering from fibromyalgia often have tender points around the knees - which is why an excessively tight pair of compression socks can cause pain and even restrict proper blood flow. You should always ensure that your socks are pulled right up to just under the knee and that they fit you correctly.
Additionally, it’s important to check that your socks are not made of materials that can irritate you or to which you could be allergic. One safe option is to opt for merino wool as, generally, this is a soft material that is also hypoallergenic and antibacterial. However, if you have any doubts, speak to your doctor before anything else.