When taking a long-distance flight or trip, most of us fail to consider putting on compressions socks. After all, we’re used to associating them with our grandparents. But in reality, these “unfashionable” accessories can protect us from some of the potentially harmful effects long-distance trips and flights can have on our body. Oh, and they can increase our comfort too.
When sitting for long periods of time (such as when on a 3-hour flight), our legs tend to swell. And swelling in the legs isn’t only a mild inconvenience. As the blood pools in your legs, there’s an increased risk of developing deep vein thrombosis, a type of blood clot and other circulation problems. And the purpose of compressions socks is to prevent the blood from pooling in your legs.
Compression socks for travel look exactly like regular socks. However, the thing that sets them apart is that they apply gentle pressure to your ankles and lower legs which helps increase the blood flow. You can purchase compression socks for travel over the counter or get them prescribed by a doctor. When buying compression socks, you’ll be faced with a wide range of options. To pick out the right ones for you, here’s what you need to consider.
Different types of compression socks for travel offer different levels of compression. The level of compression determines how tight the socks will feel. According to the compression level, compression socks fall into three categories: mild (8-15 mmHg), moderate (15-20 mmHg), firm (20-30 mmHg) and extra firm (30-40 mmHg). Which compression level is right for you depends on the duration of the trip as well as any existing medical issues.
With that being said, mild or moderate compression socks can help prevent leg swelling and deep vein thrombosis in healthy people travelling. Higher compression levels, more than 20 mmHg, is also referred to as “medical-grade” and are recommended for people with certain medical conditions such as varicose veins, edema, or who have had recent surgery. While socks with mild to moderate compression levels for non-medical uses are OK to buy online, if you’re having health issues, it’s best to purchase yours at a medical supply shop with a professional fitter.
Socks with Graduated Compression
While some compression socks for travel place consistent pressure throughout, others offer a graduated compression. These kinds of socks put the most pressure on your ankles, and then the pressure decreases as the socks go further up the legs. These socks push the blood back up your leg, which helps prevent feet from swelling. Graduated compression socks are a good choice if you can stand and move around during your trip.
Size and Fit
If the compression socks aren’t the right size and fit for you, not only will they be uncomfortable, but they also won’t be able to do their job right. So, before buying compression socks make sure to check their sizing guide. Different manufacturers will have different sizing charts that not only refer to shoe size but also the size of your calves. It’s important that the socks fit snuggly, but aren’t too tight. Most compression socks go just below the knee, but you can also get thigh-highs or tights too.
Compression socks made of high-quality materials are more effective and resist the wear and tear of frequent washing without losing their shape. These materials are blended to guarantee maximum effectiveness, stretchiness, breathability and moisture-wicking. Some blends with bamboo also help fight bad odours. The materials used in quality compression socks are blends with spandex, lycra and nylon.
Men’s vs. Women’s
Although many compression socks for travel are unisex, you can also find some which are specifically designed for men and women. For example, women also have the option to purchase thigh-high compression stockings which look more appropriate when wearing skirts and dresses. And there are also designs of compression socks with more masculine features.
How to Wear Compression Socks
Compression socks should fit nicely on your skin without falling off. Don’t try to pull them higher than they’re designed to go (for instance, pulling knee-high socks over your knees) – it will reduce their effectiveness. Also, don’t roll them up either as this will create extra pressure on the points where they’re rolled up – and you don’t want that. The same also goes for folding the top down.
Other Tips for Reducing the Risk of DVT When Travelling
Remember to get up and walk around the cabin from time to time. If you’re shy or unable to do so, try to circle your ankles and perform some exercises which you can do even in your seat. Also, try staying hydrated by drinking plenty of water throughout the journey is another way to get your blood going and prevent it from pooling in your legs. What’s more, this will also make you take more bathroom breaks which means more moving. On the other hand, avoid alcohol and caffienated drinks as they can make you dehydrated.