If you suffer from deep vein thrombosis (DVT) or look after someone who does, you may be wondering why you should use compression socks to help with this condition, and what are the best compression socks for DVT.
DVT can take on a variety of forms, but it’s always caused by a blood clot forming in one or more of the deep veins in the body, usually in the legs. As a result, you may experience leg pain or swelling, while others don’t experience noticeable symptoms until the condition develops.
Since compression socks are a great relief for lower limb pain and swelling, they can be excellent for tackling deep vein thrombosis. In this article, we’ll look at how compression stockings help with DVT, what the benefits of compression garments are in these situations, and what are the best ways to use compression socks for deep vein thrombosis.
Do Compression Socks and Stockings Help DVT?
Through their gentle pressure and by stimulating normal blood flow in the legs, compression socks can be an invaluable help against DVT. For those who travel a lot and find themselves not moving for long stretches of time, for example when sitting down on a plane, there is a high risk of blood clots forming and ultimately of developing DVT. Additionally, you could be at risk of DVT if you take certain medications (e.g. birth control or estrogen), if you’ve been suffering from dehydration, or if you’ve had a recent surgery making you bed-ridden.
In all these cases, your legs are not getting the amount of movement a healthy, active individual would normally engage in. However, patients who wear compression stockings in hospital have been found less likely to develop DVT, and those who travel frequently swear by them as well.
The benefits of compression stockings for DVT include a continuous stimulation of blood flow, as well as an energized, lighter feeling in your legs. Combining pressure applied to the legs and ankles with added protection for your limbs, compression socks or stockings reduce the likelihood of developing a blood clot, which could turn into DVT. They also protect patients from cuts and grazes which could be an added pain for those suffering from diabetes, for example.
How Do Compression Socks Work for DVT?
Compression socks are often prescribed by doctors to those patients recovering from illness or surgery and spending a long time not moving. They are also extremely appreciated by frequent flyers and by people who spend a long time on their feet, e.g. nurses. But what is it about compression socks that makes them work for DVT?
Compression socks apply therapeutic pressure to the legs, starting from the ankle and gradually easing as it climbs towards your knees. This graduated compression releases pressure and pain in the lower limbs and stimulated blood flow. By squeezing the legs, blood travels more freely through the limbs, transporting oxygen, relieving the feeling of heaviness and the swelling, and promoting muscular recovery after long walks or exercising.
As the blood moves freely through the veins in your legs, wearing compression stockings for DVT avoids the formation of blood clots – and, in turn, the onset of deep vein thrombosis.
The Benefits of Compression Socks for DVT
Thanks to the action we’ve described above, you can expect compression socks to help you avoid DVT, but also to give you a host of benefits in everyday life.
At a glance, wearing compression socks gives patients and/or regular wearers:
- A feeling of energized, happier and lighter legs;
- Reduced swelling in the lower limbs;
- Less pain;
- Boosted muscle recovery after physical effort;
- Less discomfort;
- Overall better health for your legs.
If you suffer from DVT, you are likely to experience the following symptoms:
- Leg swelling;
- Leg pain and soreness, as well as cramps, often starting in the calf muscles;
- A change of skin color on the leg, becoming more red or purple (depending on your natural skin color);
- A feeling of warmth on the affected leg.
While compression stockings may not be able to help with the third and fourth symptoms above, the swelling and pain are areas that can be treated and alleviated significantly. You should also try and move as much as possible if you are at risk of DVT, by taking short walks for example (if this is an option).
To further decrease the risk of developing DVT, it is advised that you avoid smoking and manage your weight, as both these lifestyle choices can put you at risk.
Ways to Use Compression Stockings and Socks for DVT
If you’re wondering how to use compression stockings for DVT, they are quite simple and straightforward. First, you’ll need to choose the type of garment you would prefer to wear:
- Compression stockings go high up the leg, up to the pelvic area. These will give your entire leg muscles well-deserved support and your whole legs will benefit from the graduated compression. They are great for runners and walkers, but also for people who have been lying in bed and unable to move for extended periods of time.
- Compression socks typically go as high up as your knee. They are extremely versatile and you can pair them with any type of outfit, from casual everyday wear to specific Merino wool socks which are better suited for hiking, or Nylon socks that can be preferable when running. You also get a wide range of colors and styles.
- Open-toe compression socks are ideal for summer, or in cases where you would prefer to have your toes unconstrained by material.
- TED hose are a type of stocking specifically designed to prevent blood clots and swelling in the legs, also known as anti-embolism stockings. They are specifically designed to apply pressure to the superficial veins in the legs, and are meant for non-mobile persons or bedridden post-surgery patients. They are far less versatile than compression socks and you are not expected to walk around while wearing them.
Next, wearing compression socks for DVT is as simple as wearing any type of socks! You can choose your socks by paying attention to:
Size. You’ll want your compression socks or stockings to be tight enough that you can get the compression benefit, but not so tight that they are uncomfortable. We recommend trying a pair in the store and gradually “easing into” wearing them – by starting off with a few hours at a time, and then slowly increasing.
Compression level. You’ll notice that our socks come in three levels of compression, all measured in mmHg:
- 15-20 mmHg is the lightest level of compression, offering moderate support and easy to wear all day, when traveling or if suffering from mild swelling, during pregnancy, or if you have varicose veins;
- 20-30 mmHg is a level that offers moderate to firm support and is the most commonly recommended for edema and DVT, as well as in pre- and post-surgery scenarios;
- 30-40 mmHg is the firmest support level and will be prescribed by a doctor to treat conditions like DVT but also venous insufficiency, lymphedema and more.
Material. As we mentioned above, depending on the activity and weather conditions, you’ll want to choose different types of material for your compression socks. You can wear cotton socks pretty much anytime, anywhere. For more moisture wicking and extra warmth, choose Merino wool. And, if you’re looking for lighter, sleeker materials, then we have a range of Nylon and moisture-wicking Nylon socks for you as well.
What are the causes of DVT?
People develop DVT as a result of certain medical conditions that affect blood circulation and how the blood clots. Additionally, if you don’t move for a long time – for example, bed-ridden patients after a surgery or an accident – you could also develop blood clots and DVT.
Commonly, blood clots to stop a continuous bleeding after an incident. But, if the clots develop deep inside your veins, it’s counterproductive to normal body functions.
It’s most common to develop DVT after a surgery or a trauma.
How long can you use compression socks?
You can wear compression socks 24 hours once you’re comfortable with the feeling of graduated pressure on your legs. However, we would recommend that you start off by wearing your compression stockings, socks or calf sleeves for a few hours at a time, to allow your body to get used to them. Increase time worn slowly, and then adjust as you feel comfortable.
Can you wear compression socks while on blood thinners?
Blood thinners can cause serious bleeding problems, so anyone with a prescription for this medication should consult with their doctor about combining it with any other type of support, supplement, or medication.
You should try to walk and be mobile, and wearing compression socks is usually recommended if you’re taking blood thinners. However, we do suggest that you ask your doctor first.
The Best Compression Stockings for DVT
DVT is a condition that causes pain and swelling in the legs. Thanks to graduated compression and its benefits for blood circulation, wearing compression socks if you suffer from DVT can help alleviate pain and discomfort, reduce swelling, and allow you to feel better overall. This also applies to stockings, which are typically longer garments that cover more of your legs than the socks.
You don’t have to have a prescription to start wearing compression stockings for DVT. Once you’ve found your size and material of choice, browse through our many styles here and start feeling the benefits right away!