Compression stockings are a specialized hosiery designed to help prevent the occurrence of, and guard against further progression of, venous disorders such as oedema, phlebitis and thrombosis. Compression stockings are elastic garments worn around the leg, compressing the limb. This reduces the diameter of distended veins and increases venous blood flow velocity and valve effectiveness. Compression therapy helps decrease venous pressure, prevents venous stasis and impairments of venous walls, and relieves heavy and aching legs.
Knee-high compression stockings are used not only to help increase circulation, but also to help prevent the formation of blood clots in the lower legs. They also aid in the treatment of ulcers of the lower legs.
Unlike traditional dress or athletic stockings and socks, compression stockings use stronger elastics to create significant pressure on the legs, ankles and feet. Compression stockings are tightest at the ankles and gradually become less constrictive toward the knees and thighs. By compressing the surface veins, arteries and muscles, they force circulating blood through narrower channels. As a result, more blood returns to the heart and less blood tends to pool in the feet.
There are two types of compression stockings, graduated (Class I to IV) and anti-embolism (TEDS).
Fit is critical to the therapeutic effect of compression stockings.