The most beneficial compression socks are “graduated” as opposed to “uniform” in strength. Graduated compression socks are tighter at the ankle than they are at the top. The graduation helps push blood back up toward the heart, aiding in circulation.
Compression stockings with relatively low compression levels can be purchased without a prescription at drugstores, medical supply stores, and online.
These over-the-counter items usually come in compression levels of around 15-20 mmHg.
Compression stockings with higher levels of compression are prescribed by doctors. The prescription will include the specific strength you need. By law, no prescription is required, but most pharmacies won’t dispense higher-level compression wear without a prescription.
By “high-level compression,” we mean those that generally range from 20-30 mmHg to 30-40 mmHg; while these strengths are generally safe to wear, certain individuals may be at risk of harm due to contraindications, so the oversight of a doctor is always recommended. Compression levels in even higher ranges do exist, but your doctor should tell you about those.
A trained and certified fitter will need to take measurements to ensure you get the correct level of compression and size. If your doctor or physical therapist can’t do the fitting, they should be able to refer you to someone who can.
These are general guidelines. The severity of a certain issue will help determine the level needed.
As mentioned, you should talk to your doctor about which compression level is right for you.
Determining the right size for the lower-strength compression stockings you can purchase without a physician:
Shoe size is usually a factor in the sizing of compression stockings, as well as measurements of the ankle and calf. When measuring the ankle, measure at the thinnest point. For calf measurements, measure at the thickest point. For calf length, measure from the floor to the right-angle bend of the knee (in sitting position). It’s also best to take measurements as soon as possible after waking in the morning, when swelling is at a minimum.
Compression stockings are often used to relieve a minor issue, before it turns into a major one.
The term “support stockings” is widely known and often also used for medical compression wear. The principles of the two types of stockings are different, though.
Support stockings exert passive resistance to swelling, while compression stockings apply active pressure on the veins of the leg. This prevents them from dilating and facilitates venous return.
Medical compression garments are produced under strict medical and technical specifications to guarantee adequate ankle pressure and graduated compression along the leg.