When buying socks, some people are confused by the terms "compression stockings" and "support socks." For most distributors and manufacturers, these terms are used interchangeably, as are compression socks and support stockings. What stands out, however, is that these items have many differences from a regular sock. Here is a guide to some of the more pronounced differences.
The most important difference is that support stockings have medical benefits. They provide reliable compression therapy for swollen and tired legs, as well as those with poor circulation and risk of blood clots. Although people are not required to have a prescription to wear them, it is best to seek out medical advice from a healthcare professional before wearing them. The best type, size and wear regimen are individual to each person, so a medical professional can help to distinguish the best health benefits.
Regular socks can be made of nearly any materials, from wool to cotton to nylon. Compression stockings can be made of different blends of materials, although they must have some element of elasticity to them so that they provide compressive support.
It is important that users are measured for the proper fit. Unlike regular socks and stockings, which are normally chosen by shoe size, the measurements of the length and width of the ankles, knees and feet influence the fit and effectiveness of the garments. A poorly fitted support sock can affect its beneficial medical properties. A certain amount of compression begins at the lower ankle and gradually changes the higher the garment goes up the leg.
When most people think of a sock, they imagine a footie, ankle-high, calf-high or knee-high sock. Which regular type to choose is usually a matter of fashion and personal comfort. Calf-high support stockings are common for diabetics and athletes. Knee-high, thigh-high and waist-high lengths are typical for compression socks. There are also bodysuits that offer compressive properties. The height is chosen to cover the area where additional circulation or support is needed.
Not all compression hosiery is opaque. There are brands that offer more sheer looks that more closely resemble a trouser sock. Some patients prefer the thicker socks to cover up blemishes and discoloration due to varicose veins, thrombophlebitis and other medical conditions. Everyday socks are usually solid, although everyday nylon stockings are typically sheer and can be seen through.
Ease to Find
Although regular socks can be purchased nearly anywhere clothing is sold, including department stores, drugstores, mini-marts and online, compression stockings are more difficult to find. Support stockings can be found online through a compressive garment distributor and ordered by the individual. They can also be special ordered through a healthcare professional and through a pharmacy.