Varicose veins are veins that are highly visible above the surface of the skin. These types of veins transpire when blood gathers behind the small valves in an individua’s veins, as opposed to traveling directly back to the heart. For this reason, the blood has longer to travel to reach it’s destination.
Varicose veins can be dangerous, but in some cases, are not something to worry about. We recommend seeking advice from a medical professional for individual advice. However, some people may be recommended surgery to remove these veins. Post-surgery can be painful, and you may require some assistance for day to day tasks in the weeks and months that follow.
Even so, if you don’t have surgery to remove these veins (this is most people), then you still may experience pain or general discomfort in the area where the varicose veins are. One way to minimize the pain, perhaps even getting rid of the varicose veins, is with compression therapy, such as the use of compression socks or stockings.
What is compression therapy?
Compression therapy is a pain relief method, mainly used in the lower limbs, such as the legs, ankles, thighs, and calves. Varicose veins are likely to develop on the lower limbs; however, they can develop in other areas too.
Compression therapy consists of consistent pressure being applied to the lower leg muscles or affected area, increasing blood flow, reducing pain, and increasing healing properties. Also, compression therapy is known to improve circulation, helping blood flow back to the heart normally. Also, the increase in blood flow speeds up healing and reduces any swelling, allowing you to go about your day with less discomfort.
Different types of compression therapy
Compression therapy products were originally most common with athletes, used before, during, and after training and racing to reduce swelling, to increase performance, and to decrease recovery times.
However, compression therapy is also beneficial for those experiencing general pain and discomfort, swelling, and varicose veins.
There are two main types of compression products: compression socks and compression stockings. Compression socks are a little shorter than stockings, providing slightly less compression in comparison to stockings. If you’re experiencing pain throughout your entire leg, or the pain is extremely painful, compression stockings are recommended.
Most compression stockings are knee-high, increasing circulation during exercise such as walking or running, or even just sitting on the couch. However, contrary to popular belief, we do not recommend wearing a pair of compression socks or stockings 24-hours a day, only a few hours maximum instead. Rather, wear these when experiencing pain and first thing in the morning and before bed to increase blood flow to the muscles, reducing swelling and discomfort before starting, and ending the day.
Wearing compression socks for too long may lead to pins and needles (a numb like feeling) in the lower legs. This can be dangerous, and for this reason, is not recommended.
Reduced pain and swelling
Compression therapy, such as socks or stockings, may not eliminate your varicose veins. However, they will likely reduce pain, discomfort, and even swelling. In some cases, compression therapy may be enough to restore the vein back to normal, but this is rare.
A study from 2018 found that those who wore compression stockings (pressure of 18 to 21 mm Hg) for one week experienced reduced pain and discomfort from their varicose veins as opposed to regular stockings. Furthermore, another study, this time from 2014, concluded compression stockings to be an effective treatment method of varicose veins. In general, the results are mixed, and thus entirely individual-based.
For most, surgery is the last option on the cards. Many choose other, less-invasive methods first in the hope that the varicose veins disappear themselves, such as wearing compression socks or stockings.
However, compression gear can also be worn post-surgery, over your bandage and in the following weeks and months to promote increased blood flow, reduced swelling, and less pain in the affected area.
Are there any downsides to compression therapy?
It’s important to note that compression therapy is not for everyone. While it may work for one person, perhaps even as an effective treatment option to get rid of varicose veins, it may be uncomfortable and an in-effective treatment method for another.
Compression therapy, e.g., compression socks and stockings, may comprise of the following downsides for a small amount of people:
- Irritated skin
Often, if compression socks or stockings are causing you pain, these are likely too small, decreasing circulation and affecting the nerves in the legs. The same applies to individuals who wear their stockings for the whole duration of the day, later becoming painful, irritating and damaging the nerves in the lower legs.
If compression therapy causes you any pain or discomfort, even when following the precautions laid out above, contact a medical professional or stop using these immediately.
Varicose veins are veins that are visible above the surface of the skin. These veins develop when blood gathers behind small valves in the vein, instead of going directly back to the heart. Varicose veins are not necessarily dangerous, but can be if left untreated or undiagnosed.
Upon discovering what you think is a varicose vein, you should book an appointment with your doctor to confirm, allowing you to receive further support and guidance.
With that being said, as methods of removing varicose veins such as surgery are invasive and uncomfortable for some, many people suffering from varicose veins prefer to try alternative treatment options first, such as wearing compression socks or stockings.
Remember: compression therapy is not only an option for getting rid of varicose veins, but if you do undergo surgery, compression socks and stockings can be an effective means of reducing pain, swelling, and discomfort, speeding up your recovery.
Finally, ensure not to wear your compression socks too tight or too long. For example, try to wear these first thing in the morning for 15-30 minutes at first to get a feel for them. Slowly increase how long you wear them until you feel comfortable wearing them for as long as you or your doctor want you to. Wearing compression socks too long may damage the nerves, so refrain from wearing too often, unless directed by your doctor.