Do you have tired, heavy and achy feet and legs after standing on your feet all day? Are you looking for some relief to help you get through the day? Special socks called compression socks may provide you with some much needed relief.
And don’t worry, compression socks won’t make you look like an old cat lady. There are new styles and looks that are surprisingly fashionable.
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Compression socks are also called compression stockings or compression hosiery. Hearing ‘hosiery’ may scare off men but they work for men too.
This article isn’t medical advice. For medical advice, talk to your doctor. This article isn’t intended to diagnose or treat anything. Once again, if you have any medical concerns, consult your doctor.
Table of Contents
- 1 Why does standing all day cause tired achy feet and legs?
- 2 Ignoring your Painful Achy legs and feet
- 3 What can you do to avoid the pain of standing on your feet all day?
- 4 Why is Ankle Joint Flexibility important?
- 5 What are Compression stockings?
- 6 Are there different strengths of compression stockings?
- 7 What compression stockings are right for me if I stand on my feet all day?
- 8 Compression Socks for Airline travelers
- 9 Summary
Why does standing all day cause tired achy feet and legs?
The problem with standing on your feet all day – especially when you aren’t walking around much – is that fluid can build up in your feet. Thanks to gravity blood can pool in your lower legs.
Think about this…
Do you have a second heart in your feet?
No you don’t.
But we probably should.
Our heart is in the center of chest so it pumps blood out to the rest of our body, but there is no second-heart to pump the de-oxygenated blood BACK to our heart.
So how does the blood get from our feet back to our heart? How does the blood fight gravity and work its way back to the chest?
That is where our calf muscle and moving our ankle comes in.
When we walk and activate our calf muscle, it helps push the blood up our legs, through one-way valves in the veins and back to the heart.
Each successive calf muscle contraction pushes the blood up a bit higher then the one-way valves prevent it from dropping back down.
So if you have a job where you’re standing all day and not walking (not activating your calf muscle) then the blood that was pumped down to your feet isn’t returning to your heart as well as you’d want.
The blood pools in your lower legs.
Over time this can fatigue our legs and cause those one-way valves in the veins to collapse.
According to John Hopkins University this could cause:
- Varicose veins
- Spider veins
Ignoring your Painful Achy legs and feet
One of the worst things you can do about this is ignore the pain in your legs.
If you’re standing on your feet 8 hours a day, day after day, then you’re putting yourself at risk of lower leg problems. It increases the blood pressure in the leg veins and can damage those one-way valves.
(If you ever had sudden onset of pain in the legs, contact your doctor immediately or if you have recurrent leg pain, call your doctor.)
What can you do to avoid the pain of standing on your feet all day?
- Elevate your legs during the day if possible. Gravity will allow the blood to flow back toward your heart.
- Try to walk around in order to get your calf muscles pumping and ankle joint flexing
- Keep your calf muscles strong by walking and doing calf muscle exercises. A classic calf muscle exercise is the calf raise: while standing still, rise up onto the balls of your feet, lifting your heels off the ground.
- Wear compression stockings daily (more info below)
Why is Ankle Joint Flexibility important?
Having good ankle range of motion is very important for the calf muscle pump to work effectively.
Before the blood in the veins even gets to the calf it has to exit the foot. And having good ankle flexibility allows this “foot pump” to get the blood flowing upward toward the calves. (For reference, click here.)
What are Compression stockings?
Compression stockings are flexible socks that are tighter around the ankle and have gradually less compression as they move up your lower leg.
Imagine squeezing the bottom of your toothpaste tube really hard, and as you push the toothpaste toward the top of the tube you gradually squeeze softer. That is what the graduated compression stocking is doing to your lower legs.
It helps to return blood from the lower legs back to the heart.
Wearing compression stockings daily may help relieve lower leg pain and prevent worsening of varicose veins.
I found the descriptive picture below on Instagram.
Are there different strengths of compression stockings?
Yes there are different strengths of compression based on pressure ratings. The units of measurement for the pressure is “mmHg.” This means millimeters of Mercury. It is the same units of measure that your doctor uses for your blood pressure results.
There are compression stockings that you can purchase without a prescription that are in the 15-20 mmHg range.
These are usually sized according to your shoe size.
The higher strength compression stockings usually require a prescription, but I see they are available to purchase online without prescriptions.
The higher strength compression stockings (>20mmHg) are considered medical grade and generally shouldn’t be worn unless you’ve consulted a doctor and a certified stocking fitter (they take various measurements).
What compression stockings are right for me if I stand on my feet all day?
If you do not have any diagnosed medical conditions, and only mild aching, swelling or pain in the legs from standing all day, you could try lower-strength compression stockings (less than 20 mmHg strengths).
You can buy compression stockings at most local pharmacies.
But if your local pharmacy doesn’t carry compression stockings, there are a lot of places to buy low compression stockings online.
I found some cute compression stockings on Amazon.
When I worked in the pharmacy we usually carried brands like Jobst, Sigvaris and Dr. Segals.
I hadn’t heard of Charmking brand, but I see they are popular on Amazon for this 8-pack shown below.
One of the good things about the price of socks coming down is that you can buy a few pairs at once.
Previously, when the price of compression socks was so high, people would only buy one pair and then have to wash them almost daily.
Over time this repeated washing can break down the elastic fibers.
But when you have a multi-pack like the one shown above you don’t have to subject the socks to such frequent washing.
Compression Socks for Airline travelers
A Cochrane review said that there is high-quality evidence to suggest that airline passengers that wear compression stockings have reduced likelihood of developing symptomless blood clots in their legs.
And there is evidence that wearing compression stockings during a flight can reduce leg swelling. (Currently the evidence is considered low quality because of the way they measured the swelling, but at there is some evidence.)
If you have no known medical conditions, but suffer from tired, achy and heavy feet and legs because you stand all day at your job, then you may benefit from compression stockings.
The lower pressure 10-15mmHg or the 15-20 mmHg graduated compression stockings may provide the relief you’re looking for.
They’ll help push the blood from your lower legs and feet back up toward the heart. Better circulation should help reduce your mild swelling and foot pain.
If your symptoms are very bothersome or worsening, or if you have medical conditions such as diabetes or peripheral arterial disease, then you should consult with your doctor for an evaluation.
Tim from LearnAlongWithMe.com
(Tim has a Bachelor’s Degree in Pharmacy though he no longer works in a dispensing pharmacy. Over the years of working in a pharmacy he has seen many people – including nurses and doctors – get relief by wearing compression socks daily.)