What are Gradient Compression Stockings?

stockingGradient compression stockings are garments designed to improve the blood flow in the lower extremities of people suffering from various diseases and conditions that are detrimental to such flow. Some of the conditions from which patients might suffer include:

  • Diabetes
  • Lymphedema
  • Deep-vein thrombosis
  • Superficial thrombophlebitis
  • Cellulitis
  • Lymphangitis 

How do Gradient Compression Stockings Work?

The blood in the legs must flow upward to get back to the heart. A gradient compression stocking applies its greatest pressure at ankle level. The pressure exerted by the stocking gets less and less as it goes up the leg to the top of the stocking, although it still exerts pressure all the way up.

Which Stocking Should a Patient Use?

There is a wide variety of stockings. Some of them go up to the knee, while others rise to the thigh. There are even gradient compression stockings designed as pantyhose. For a gradient compression stocking to be effective, it must be prescribed by a doctor, and such prescriptions are measured in mmHg, or millimeters of mercury. Additionally, gradient compression stockings are useless to a patient if they are too big or too small; therefore, proper measuring and fitting is essential to their efficacy. One final consideration about the use of gradient compression stockings is a patient’s Ankle Brachial Index, or ABI. The person’s ABI must be 1.0 or greater for him or her to be able to use gradient compression stockings.

How to Put on Gradient Compression Stockings

People suffering from the conditions gradient compression stockings are designed to treat often have great pain in their lower legs. Such pain is bound to make it difficult to don the stockings. To combat this pain and reduce the accompanying swelling, a patient should raise his or her legs above heart level while lying down. After that, the patient should put on the stockings the same way as any normal pair of socks, stockings or pantyhose.

Other Helpful Tips

  • Rubber gloves give a better grip when donning the stockings.
  • Always put the stockings on first thing in the morning.
  • Legs and feet that are warm have better circulation.
  • Never cut or alter gradient compression stockings.
  • Be sure to take note of weight loss and how it affects the sizing of the stockings.
  • Never fold nor roll the stockings down.
  • Always remove the stockings if legs or feet turn blue or begin tingling.
  • If the stockings stick, use cornstarch or grease-free talcum powder.


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