How Do Compression Socks Work?
By now, most people know that compression socks are beneficial for a number of reasons, such as improved blood flow to constricted areas and reduced swelling. But how do they work? Compression technology and the way these highly engineered socks function to provide comfort and utility are described below.
Human Circulatory System
In order to understand how compression socks work, it is first important to have a general understanding of how the circulatory system functions (i.e., the system responsible for transporting blood throughout the body). Blood is pumped through the body via arteries, thanks to the constant pumping of our heart. Oxygen within the blood is transported to muscles and organs, where cells use this vital element to carry out processes to sustain everyday life, such as muscle contractions or energy consumption. The waste products from these processes, as well as the deoxygenated blood, are then transported back to the heart via veins for re-oxygenation.
Compression socks have what is referred to as graduated compression. Here, the sock is tighter and has more compression towards the lower leg, and gradually loosens towards the knee. The purpose of this design is to work against gravity by increasing delivery of deoxygenated blood to the heart, instead of allowing the waste products and inflammation to pool in the lower legs.
Arterial Blood Flow
When compression is consistently applied to the legs, artery walls dilate, which increases the flow of blood from the heart. Therefore, deoxygenated blood can be removed from muscles more quickly, allowing oxygenated blood to take its place.
Muscle Soreness and Recovery
The accumulation of metabolic waste products in the lower legs is the leading cause of muscle soreness. During recovery, compression socks help improve arterial blood flow, which decreases the amount of deoxygenated blood in the lower legs, to speed up your recovery time.
When wearing socks for athletic performance, such as during marathons, the improved flow of arterial blood is important for reducing muscle cramps. Wearing compression socks during any endurance activity will reduce lactic acid build up and ensuring proper blood flow at all times.
Blood Clot Prevention
The pooling of blood in the lower legs is a risk factor for developing deep vein thrombosis and a pulmonary embolism. The graduated compression of these socks helps prevent blood clots from occurring by improving circulation throughout the body.