Keeping you legs healthy is important.
There are the obvious things, such as not sitting too long, keeping your weight down and elevating your legs whenever you can. The most important thing is leg exercises, to improve the circulation, such as swimming, walking, biking and yoga. Second to that is the wearing of compression socks and stockings. They improve venous circulation to prevent and treat venous problems.
Varicose veins are enlarged, prominent veins usually found on the ankles and lower legs. They tend to get worse when you are on your feet for a long time, because of blood pooling in the veins, causing them to enlarge. Varicose veins do not always need to be treated.
For maximum protection against new appearances, worsening or reappearance of spider and varicose veins, the wearing of compression or support stockings is simply not a choice but a must. One of the very best things you can do when you rise each morning is put on your graduated compression or support socks or stockings and wear them as much as you can.
Deep vein thrombosis and air travel
Blood clots are formed when your blood stops moving. If a clot forms in the deep veins of the legs, it is called deep vein thrombosis (DVT). These clots can dislodge and travel through your blood circulation to cause a blockage in the tiny vessels of your heart or lungs.
Air, or even road, travel of more than 2 hours increases the risk DVT. Normal movement of the calf muscles when walking helps to pump blood from the legs to the heart, but this doesn’t happen when you sit still for long periods, making clots more likely to form.
Air travel can triple your risk of DVT. It is important to realize it is not only long-distance air travel or flying economy class that puts people at risk of DVT. Sitting in one position for too long is a major factor and this can also occur during long journeys by
Graduated compression support stockings, helps to improve blood to flow from the lower legs towards the heart. Support stockings are tightest at the ankle and become gradually less tight as they go up the leg, thereby helping to move blood gently up your legs and prevents it from pooling. Compression stockings are classified into three different grades: Class 1: 15-20 mmHg (light), Class 2: 20-30 mmHg (moderate), Class 3: 30-40 mmHg (extra firm) and Class 4 (above 59 mmHg)
Class 1 compression is recommended for people with tired aching legs, mild varicose or spider veins, mild ankle swelling, and to prevent ankles and feet swelling during long flights. For these mild symptoms, you need to wear regular support panty hose or knee-highs that end just above the calf and below the knee. That will help prevent swelling and aching significantly. Avoid socks with elastic bands, they can cut off the blood flow and may make varicose veins worse.
Class 2 compression is used for people with moderate to severe varicose veins with pronounced ankle swelling. These are becoming very popular among athletes. Especially runners and cyclists.
Class 3 and 4 compression is used for people with severe varicose veins or ankle swelling, active leg ulcers. They are usually obtained on prescription by a doctor.
TED (thromboembolism-deterrent hose) stockings are prescribed by doctors and used in the hospital setting. They should not be used to treat or prevent varicose veins or as travel socks.
Effects of Compression
It increases venous blood flow while decreasing the venous blood volume. It also reduces blood reflux in diseased superficial and/or deep veins.There is also a reduction of the abnormally elevated venous pressure.
By improving the circulation it reduces an elevated oedema of the tissue and thereby increases the drainage of noxious substances. The improved circulation in turn reduces inflammation, speeds up repair processes and improves movement of tendons and joints.
Stockings should be apply before swelling builds in the legs. Cyclists wear them mainly before and after the cycling events. It seems that there is then much less muscle ache after the cycling, or running, event.
Real Men wearing Pantyhose?
Both men and women have very similar types of legs and males as well as females suffer from the same types of venous problems in their legs. Most women are comfortable wearing compression stockings or pantyhose. Men often also need the support of these leg garments. There are just no good or logical reasons why men should not wear support stockings or pantyhose too, to keep their legs healthy.
Most men, however have difficulty with the idea of wearing stockings,until, they have experience the relief it brings to the discomfort and painful symptoms.
Recently in road races, the wearing of extremely long compression socks are becoming more popular everywhere. It seems that in recent years the idea of wearing compression socks when running or after running has become very popular.
In theory the compression of the lower leg increases the blood flow. Due to gravity, blood tends to pool in the lower legs. This can occur both during exercise or at rest. By increasing venous blood flow, more by-products such as lactic acid can be flushed out faster. That should improve performance. As far as the recovery after a race, the idea is similar.
When we run, and strike the ground, the impact causes the muscles and tendons of the lower leg to vibrate. It’s thought that this vibration could play a roll in the delayed muscle soreness after the event. So, in theory, the wearing of compression socks should improve the efficiency of the muscles.
Long and triple jumpers have been wearing compression socks for some time now. It seems that they are not doing this for blood flow reasons, but the compression socks may improve their leg power. It is theorized that this might decrease the muscle vibration and increase the proprioception.
It seems that for athletes (runners and cyclists), it makes no difference to their performance, but, it does seem to help for muscle soreness after the race.
It was found that a graduated compression was better, meaning more compression at the bottom near the ankle and less as it goes up towards the knee. The amount of compression is also important. It was found that 20mmHg at the ankle improved blood flow, while 30mmHg restricted blood flow at rest.
The science behind this.
“Wearing compression improved symptom management but wearing compression to slow the progression, or prevent the reoccurrence of varicose veins could not be supported by the current published evidence”. (Phlebology 2009;24 Suppl1:13)
A randomised, crossover, open-label study of the effectiveness of Skins – Travel and recovery garments in reducing in-flight ankle oedema. Hagan, M., Lambert, S. (2008). A randomised, crossover, open-label study of the effectiveness of SkinsTM – Travel and recovery garments in reducing in-flight ankle oedema. Medical Journal of Australia, 188(2), 81-84.
This prospective study measured 50 passengers on flights of greater than 5 hours. The measurements were conducted on both the outgoing and return flights for each passenger – one wearing Skins and one not wearing Skins. The results showed statistically significant differences in ankle circumference and symptoms of Economy Class Syndrome. The results showed that participants wearing gradient compression garments (Skins) during air travel experienced a 55% decrease in ankle swelling, 58% improvement in leg pain, 52% improvement in leg discomfort, 13% demonstrated improvement in alertness, 9% improvement in concentration, 14% improvements in energy levels, Improvements in fluid retention and improved post flight sleep, Significant reductions in flight oedema were evident and observed whilst wearing Skins CG.
Therefore, the wearing of leg support stockings when flying, seems to be a no brainer and a must for every passenger.
There are many brands of compression stockings/socks.
For Class 1 you can just buy tight fitting “leg support” over the counter knee-highs or pantyhose.
Class 2 is the most common type worn by athletes and can be bought from many sports shops.
Class 3 can also be bought from sports and medical suppliers.
Class 4 Graduated Compression Stockings (above 59 mmHg) provide very strong compression and are usually intended for very severe conditions of the venous system as determined and recommended by the findings of a physician or a vein specialist.
For for class 3 & 4 you need to be more accurate on the sizing and it is important to measure tour ankles and legs accurately before buying them, to be certain that you wear the ideal size.