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How Do Compression Socks Help Reduce Swelling?


Occasionally, a person will suffer from temporary swelling of their feet, ankles and legs. These people are usually the ones that have been sitting or standing for an extended time.

Leg swelling can be caused by fluid retention or inflammation in injured or sick tissues or joints. Many reasons for leg swelling, such as an injury or prolonged standing or sitting, are frequent and easily detected.

However, a disorder known as "edema" causes excessive swelling. Its cause can be as primary as veins that cannot convey fluid back to the heart or as complex as a failing heart. The condition arises when there is a buildup of fluid in the legs just beneath the skin. The fluid accumulation can be excruciatingly uncomfortable.

Edema may result from:

  • Sitting or staying in one position for too long​

  • Eating too much salty food

  • Having premenstrual signs and symptoms

  • Being pregnant

  • Fluid retention or inflammation in injured or sick tissues or joints.

Compression socks are specially designed socks that exert pressure on your lower legs, squeezing the areas, avoiding fluid buildup in the tissue, and aiding in maintaining blood flow while reducing discomfort and edema. By improving circulation, blood will not pool in the ankles and feet and instead returns to the heart more quickly.

How to use your compression socks?

Put on compression socks as soon as you wake up before leaving the bed. Wear these socks all day to keep your legs from swelling. Take them off before going to bed or taking a bath or shower. It is best if you sleep with your feet above the level of your heart to keep your legs from swelling while you are sleeping. If you do these things, your legs will not swell all day.

The following treatments may help reduce swelling and edema and prevent it from recurring. Before attempting these self-care practices, consult your doctor to see whether ones are appropriate for you.

  • Movement. Moving and working the muscles in the affected area of your body, particularly your legs, may assist pump the excess fluid back toward your heart.

  • Elevation. Several times per day, raise the enlarged region of your body above the level of your heart.

  • Massage. Stroking the affected area toward your heart with strong but not painful pressure may aid in the removal of extra fluid.

  • Compression. Compression socks generate pressure to decrease fluid retention, especially in the legs and feet. Compression socks can help reduce swelling-related pain immediately after putting them on. This means you may be able to move around more freely. To prevent further swelling, your doctor may urge you to continue to wear compression socks once your swelling has decreased.

If you have leg swelling with any of the following signs or symptoms, which could suggest a blood clot in your lungs or a significant cardiac issue, seek emergency medical attention:

  • Chest pain

  • Difficulty breathing

  • Shortness of breath with exertion or lying flat in bed

  • Fainting or dizziness

  • Coughing blood

Also, seek immediate care if the swelling in your leg:

  • Occurs suddenly and for no apparent reason

  • Is related to a physical injury, such as from a fall, a sports injury or a car accident

  • Occurs in one leg and is painful or is accompanied by cool, pale skin

Red Blood Cells National Geographic GIF @ National Geographic

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