Compression Therapy – A Guide
A large body of published evidence has shown that compression garments – stockings, socks, tights and sleeves can be beneficial for many conditions. However, like any treatment, compression hosiery and sleeves are not recommended for everyone. Our simple guide to compression shows you when to wear compression socks, and also when compression hosiery can be harmful. If you need help or advice on compression therapy, please call our Customer Service Team on 0800 195 0160.
When to wear compression socks and hosieryWearing compression socks and other compression garments is clinically proven to help conditions such as varicose veins, leg ulcers, lymphoedema and deep vein thrombosis. One of the benefits of compression hosiery is that it compresses the tissues of the limb, forcing excess fluid back into the circulation and back to the heart. Because of this, wearing compression socks and other compression garments can help tired and aching legs. Wearing compression garments can also prevent DVT in air travellers and hospital patients.
When not to wear compression hosieryContraindications in the medical world are situations in which something should not be prescribed or recommended. If you have any of the following, compression garments may not be right for you:
- Ischaemia: This is a lack of oxygen in the limbs due to peripheral arterial disease, particularly affecting your legs. This causes pain on walking, known as intermittent claudication. It arises because the arteries supplying the legs have become narrowed or blocked, and the muscles cannot get enough oxygen.
- Peripheral neuropathy: This is damage to the nerves in your hands, arms, feet and legs.
- Congestive heart failure: This arises when the heart muscle becomes weak or stiff and cannot pump blood around the body efficiently. It causes a build – up of fluid – oedema in the legs.
- Diabetes: Peripheral arterial disease and peripheral neuropathy are both complications of diabetes.
- Cellulitis: An infection deep within the skin that causes fluid build-up – oedema.
- Allergies: Some people can be allergic to components used to make compression garments. Skin reactions do occur – Â sometimes these can be solved by using a different brand or type, but if you are allergic to compression garments, wearing them will put you at risk of skin breaks and infection.
When can compression hosiery be harmful?For some people and for some conditions, there are risks to using compression. These risks are:
- Making ischaemia worse: If the limb is already short of oxygen (ischaemia) or is abnormally swollen (oedema), a compression stocking or sleeve will compress the smaller blood vessels near to the surface of the skin, making it more likely that the tissues will be short of oxygen.
- Causing pain: Compression hosiery used as a medical treatment should be made-to-measure. If a compression garment is too tight, this can be very uncomfortable. If you have an underlying condition such as heart failure or cellulitis, your limbs can swell considerably in a short time period.
- Tissue damage: This can occur in the two situations above, and also in someone with peripheral neuropathy, as pain signals may not be noticed because of nerve damage.