As with normal socks, compression socks come in many different forms. Not only are there different sizes and styles of compression socks but there are also different levels of compression that the socks can provide. The amount of compression or “squeeze” that these socks provide are measured in millimeters of mercury also written as mmHg which is a measure of pressure.
The higher the number the more pressure the socks will provide to your legs. The best compression socks are the ones that balance comfort and health benefits. The article is to be used as a guide. It is advised that you discuss with your primary care physician if compression socks are right for you. Below are the 5 most common levels of compression
Mild compression has a compression rating of 8-15 mmHg. This level has the lightest compression. This level of compression sock provides enough pressure in the legs to reduce slight swelling of the feet and legs, moderately reduce fatigue from extended time standing, and slightly better your circulation in your legs. This is a good entry level compression sock as it provides some benefits while also easing you into the slight squeeze feeling that compression socks give.
Medium compression has a compression rating of 15-20 mmHg. This level is one of the most commonly sold non-prescription levels of compression sock. 15-20 mmHg provides enough added pressure to significantly improve circulation in the lower legs, more so than the 8-15mmHg level. This added pressure is enough to help with mild swelling of the legs, swelling due to pregnancy, reduce spider veins, as well as reduce the risk of getting deep vein thrombosis (DVT) from prolonged periods of time sitting.
The medium compression level provides all the benefits of the 8-15mmHg and additional benefits found in higher compressive levels. This sock is ideal for those on their feet for multiple hours in the day as well as anyone looking for the health benefits that compression socks can add to their day to day.
Firm compression has a compression rating of 20-30 mmHg. The firm 20-30 mmHg compression level can be sold without prescription but with this level of compression and greater, it is advised to discuss with your primary care physician if this level of compression is right for you.
In general, this level of compression is used to reduce moderate swelling in the legs, reduce moderate swelling in the legs caused by pregnancy, decrease risk of deep vein thrombosis, as well as help individuals recovering from venous procedures in the leg. 20-30mmHg is enough pressure in the legs to decrease the likelihood of the reappearance of venous conditions such as varicose veins and spider veins after they have been surgically treated.
Extra firm compression has a compression rating of 30-40 mmHg. With 30-40mmHg compression it is strongly advised to consult with your doctor before purchasing. Those with peripheral artery weakening could have this level of compression compress the legs too much to where it cuts off circulation. 30-40 mmHg are commonly prescribed by doctors to those with more severe swelling of the legs such as those with a condition called lymphedema, as well as those recovering from deep vein thrombosis or major blood clot.
Prescription grade compression has a compression rating of 40-50mmHg. This category of compression is the highest offered by many manufacturers. Often these compression socks need a prescription in order to purchase due to the fact that compression levels over 40mmHg can be harmful if you do not require that much pressure.
As described with the extra firm 30-40 mmHg, these compressions can cause a reduced amount of blood flowing to the legs and those with weakened peripheral circulation could be at risk for circulation to be cut off. This level of compression is mainly reserved for post-surgical operation healing, more severe venous complications, as well as severe swelling.
*As stated throughout the article the content about compression socks is only for reference and should not be taken as medical advice.