Wearing your compression stockings while exercising is not contraindicated and in some cases, even recommended. The question is whether wearing your compression stockings while exercising is necessary and if they have any positive effects on exercise. Because the evidence is conflicting, consult your doctor to make a decision based on your unique needs and circumstances.
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Compression stockings are therapeutic stockings worn to support the venous and lymphatic systems of the leg. Ambulatory individuals generally use compression stockings called graduated compression stockings. These stockings are tighter around the ankle and get looser as they go up to below or above the knees. Individuals may wear compression stockings on both legs or just one, depending on their purpose. Compression stockings come in various compressions, or pressures. Lighter compressions can be obtained over-the-counter, while greater compressions must be obtained by prescription.
Compression stockings treat venous disorders, such as chronic venous insufficiency, varicose veins, lymphedema and post phlebetic syndrome. Compression stockings help to circulate the blood back to the heart, decreasing swelling in the legs and preventing blood clots from forming in the legs. Post-operative patients often wear compression stockings to prevent the formation of blood clots, a common risk after surgery. Because the venous system is under twice its normal stress during pregnancy, pregnant women may benefit from wearing compression stockings, which may alleviate leg discomfort and prevent varicose veins. Those who spend the majority of the day on their feet may benefit from wearing compression stockings as they are prone to leg swelling and varicose veins. Compression stockings are recommended for travelers because circulation can be compromised from prolonged sitting.
Several theories exist regarding compression stockings and exercise. One theory is that the more you wear your compression stockings, the more good they do. For varicose vein sufferers, the Society for Vascular Nursing recommends wearing compression stockings while exercising as this helps move the increased blood in the legs back to the heart. A second theory is that wearing compression stockings during exercise may actually improve performance. A German study published in the "Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research" found that runners could run longer and had significantly better performance during sprints and longer distance runs when they wore compression stockings. A third theory is that since there is no evidence that compression stockings can cause harm during exercise, you might as well wear them.
Not everyone, however, feels that it is necessary or beneficial to wear your compression stockings during exercise. According to Dr. Gabe Mirken, a study from France determined that compression stockings have absolutely no effect on exercise. The study found that they neither increase nor decrease blood flow to the limbs, endurance, strength, speed or recovery. Mirken feels that while compression stockings may be beneficial when you stand around, they are unnecessary when you are exercising. That is because when you are exercising, the force of your muscles contracting keeps your blood from pooling.
Regardless of their role in exercise, compression stockings take some time to get used to. Users find compression stockings difficult to put on, especially the elderly, obese and the disabled. A stocking aid dorking, a device used to assist users in donning their stockings, may be beneficial for such people. Results of a study published by the "American Journal of Nursing" of 142 hospitalized post-operative patients revealed the drawbacks of compression stockings. The study found that the stockings were worn improperly in 29 percent of patients and sized incorrectly in 26 percent of patients. Twenty percent of patients did understand the purpose of the stockings. The study reiterates the importance of a proper fit and the need for users to be educated in the purpose and proper use of compression stockings. You should get fitted for your compression stockings by a qualified nurse or pharmacy or medical supply store specialist. Another drawback of compression stockings is their price. They can be expensive and may or may not be covered by insurance, depending on their purpose.