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About Compression Hosiery


Note: This page accompanies pages written on the subject of the inherited hypercoagulation disorders Factor V Leiden and Activated Protein C and Activated Protein S. Other individuals might find the information useful also.

This article was written by a patient with the Factor V Leiden gene mutation and Activated Protein C resistance which are major causes to thrombotic episodes.

What are Compression Stockings?

Compression stockings or compression hosiery are a type of special support stockings for your leg. The hosiery is available for men and women in a variety of styles and colors. You usually buy one stocking at a time, they're expensive. Many times insurance will cover the cost if your doctor has written a prescription for the stocking. These stockings are not the same as the support hosiery you often see advertised.

Compression stockings are fitted to your leg which means you will be measured for them. Your doctor will indicate the compression ratio he feels you need.

With these compression stockings, the most compression is in the foot and the compression lessens as it goes up the leg. This means that the stocking is going to be very tight around your foot but it gets looser as it goes up your leg.

What do Compression Stockings Do?

Compression stockings prevent swelling. They provide comfort - there is less pain. They promote circulation of blood in your limbs. They prevent some of the problems associated with poor circulation, such as leg ulcers. They prevent blood clots from developing in your leg. They prevent the creation of problems associated with thrombosis disorders such as varicose veins.

Ace bandage-style wraps are not suitable as a compression hosiery substitute. From personal experience I can tell you that you will have a lot of problems from doing that. You are better to go without any stocking than to wrap it.

Before 1990 compression stockings were standard. They were used for prevention and treatment. Today, there is some question on the effectiveness of compression hosiery. The same doctor who had prescribed compression hose in 1990 now, in 1996, did not recommend it for me.

Personally, I think compression hosiery is needed at certain times, but most of the time I found it to cause too many problems particularly with buckling. I think the patient should be given the opportunity to try them to see what comfort can be obtained, but if they are ineffective, discontinue them. In 1996 I had the fastest recovery ever and without compression stockings.

With compression hosiery the activity of the patient should be considered. If the patient will be sitting with the limb properly elevated, they could be eliminated. If the patient is uncomfortable at menses, let her wear the hosiery (it does relieve the pain a great deal during menstruation).

For myself, the style of compression hosiery made a big difference. Knee highs were a big problem although I used them the most because they were cooler. After a while I learned to turn the band down carefully so as not to form a tourniquet. The band was turned down only when sitting to avoid the band cutting off circulation at the knee. Thigh high's that were held up solely by the hemmed top were useless. They fell and buckled frequently, and every 10 minutes I was hiking them back into place. With these thigh high's I had to be very careful when sitting as the band would move and force itself to crease a spot in my thigh.

The thigh-high compression stocking with an attached belt was definitely the most comfortable but very annoyed to unhitch and rehitch upon using the bathroom. Although they were superior to thigh-high's with a hemmed band, the inner portion of the stocking had a tendency to cut into my thigh when sitting.

Note: you must not wrap ace-type bandages around the affected limb. The compression is uneven and will eventually make matters worse. A stocking may be required on only one leg or both.  Stockings come in two colors - flesh and black (at least in our area only two color choices are available). Compression stockings are prescribed under prescription (most times) by your physician. Your doctor will indicate the desired compression ratio. Compression varies along the length of the stocking. The most compression is lower on the stocking. The compression decreases as it goes up the leg. Compression stockings are superior to over-the-counter elastic support stockings.

You will need to be fitted for the stocking. The pharmacy staff will take measurements of various parts of your leg and foot.  Compression stockings come in closed toe or open toe styles. During hot weather open-toe are cooler but the hem may become too tight after wearing for a period of time. If you find your toes swelling up below the compression stocking, take the stocking off and report this to your doctor.

Compression stockings come in various lengths. The compression stockings that enclose the entire leg can be purchased with a waist belt. I personally like the style with the belt because it helps keep the stocking from sliding down the leg. It is more comfortable because there isn't a hem.

Using Compression Hose

Do not sleep overnight with any type of support hosiery or compression  stocking on. Put them on before you get out of bed in the morning. Don't use the bathroom and return to bed to put on the stocking, put the stock on before going to the bathroom. Do not dangle your legs over the bed to put them on.  If you have been up for a while and decide to put on a stocking, you must lay with your feet elevated above heart level for at least 20 minutes (in an attempt to drain blood and fluid) prior to putting the stocking on. Putting the stock on the first thing in the morning is the best, but some people won't listen, so if you must.........

If any part of your leg or foot is swelling below the lowest point of the stocking, remove the stocking. This means that if your toes are swelling quite a bit, take the stocking off.  If you find the stocking texture uncomfortable or irritating, try wearing it inside out.  Don't put on socks or leggings first then cover it with the compression stocking, it doesn't work.

If the stocking is irritating your skin, change washing detergents (or use shampoo or liquid dish washing detergent) and make sure to rinse thoroughly. Wash stocking by hand (I've had mine develop runs or almost disintegrate in a washing machine even with using the small item basket, gentle agitation and cool water) All stockings have a tendency to ride down because of gravity and body movement.

Watch carefully for folds, buckling and so on. You can cut off your circulation by improperly worn stockings. Hosiery can buckle behind the knee when you sit. Knee-high hosiery is particularly bad at doing this. You must avoid this because it acts as a tourniquet.   Simple solutions include folding the top hem down until, at minimum, a two inch band is formed.

If you are using a knee high stocking change to thigh-high stocking. The thigh high stocking has less tendency to buckle behind the knee. Thigh-high stockings, either with or without the belt, will also buckle, so remember to keep pulling them up. Watch for buckling around the ankle. Keep pulling the stocking up so there are no folds or wrinkles.

Don't wash the stocking in the washing machine, hand wash in cool water with an extremely mild detergent, air dry.  That shiny piece of fabric that came with your new stocking, which usually is shaped like a snow- cone holder, is used to aid in getting the stocking over your toes. Put the fabric over your toes, then put the stocking on (this only works well with toe-less stockings). If you use this shiny fabric under a full-toed stocking, it will be stuck there, you can't get it out.

Return to Article Index home page site index health Factor V Leiden home page. E-Mail

Typing by B. Krultz, Greenwood, Wisconsin -- Fall, 1997

The information collected here has been developed over searches on the internet.  We are not in any way responsible for, or endorse, information on other web sites, it is here for public information.   Your doctor is the best source of leg health information and treatment.  We hope you find this information helpful.  This article has been provided courtesy of  Ames Walker Hosiery ( and may be reproduced for personal use provided no part of this article (including the text contents) has been changed. Copyright © 2003  Ames Walker International Inc.



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