Different Levels of Compression for Stockings and Their Uses
There are four main compression levels for stockings. Each level provides a unique relief to many conditions and symptoms. Learn more about each level and use the basic guide below to help you choose the best level for your ailment.
Levels of compression
Each compression level better suits a specific condition. The best way to determine which level is right for your condition and severity is to consult a doctor and get their recommendation. If you don’t yet have a professional recommendation or your condition is mild, start at a lower compression level and advance to a higher as needed.
This is the lowest compression level available. These stockings are most effective for minor and infrequent swelling. It is a good compression level for those who spend all day on their feet or need a little extra support for improved comfort.
This compression level is best for minor, infrequent swelling. It is the compression level most recommended to travelers. Many professionals also suggest this level for pregnant women to prevent edema. Further, if the 8-15 mmHg level did not prevent or sooth swelling, this will be the next step.
A higher compression level, 20-30 mmHg is great for mild to moderate edema, varicose veins, and other common conditions pregnant individuals are more susceptible to. People also commonly use this level for severe aching and tired legs.
This compression level is the highest available. It is best for severe swelling and varicose veins. The 30-40 mmHg level is rarely the first recommendation—it is usually something patients slowly move up to when lower compression levels fail them.
What does mmHg stand for?
mmHg stands for millimeters of mercury. This is simply an indication of the compression level. The higher the number before mmHg, the more compression that the product provides. Every condition requires and works best with a different level of compression.
Choosing a level
There are many conditions compression stockings can relieve. Here is a brief rundown of each, as well as which compression level people typically employ.
Varicose veins involve twisted, enlarged veins, typically found in legs. Many also refer to them as “spider veins.” While mild cases are mainly cosmetic, more severe cases can cause pain and be uncomfortable. For mild to moderate cases, the compression level 15-20 mmHg is a good place to start. For more severe cases, start with 20-30 mmHg.
People with these factors are more at risk of developing varicose veins:
- Women are more at risk
- Family history
- Sitting or standing for long periods
Edema happens when there is abnormal fluid accumulation in body tissue. This is very common in those who are pregnant or diabetic. The recommended compression level for pregnant women or others with mild edema is 20-30 mmHg. For diabetics experience frequent edema, compression level 18-25 mmHg can help; however, diabetes comes with extra risk factors that you need to be wary of when using compression stockings. Moderate to severe edema should use a higher-level compression (between 30 and 40+ mmHg).
People with these risk factors are more likely to develop edema:
- People with kidney diseases or damage
- Poor lymphatic system functioning
- Severe protein deficiency
Restless Leg Syndrome
Restless leg syndrome (RLS) is a common condition that comes with the uncontrollable urge to move your legs. To find the right compression socks for RLS, start with 20 to 30 mmHg at first and consult a professional if the condition doesn’t improve after time.
These conditions can lead to or worsen RLS:
- Iron deficiency
- Recent surgery
This is an inflammation of veins caused by blood clots. This condition can lead to more serious ailments such as chronic venous insufficiency. The most suggested compression level for those with phlebitis is between 15 and 25 mmHg, depending on severity and risk factors.
People with these risk factors are more likely to have phlebitis:
- Excessive inactivity/sedentary lifestyle
- Oral contraceptives/hormone therapy
- Recent leg injuries
Chronic venous insufficiency
This happens when leg veins malfunction, leading to a pool or pools of blood to form in the veins. With this condition, severity determines the best compression level. However, like most conditions, it is best to start at a lower level and increase as needed.
People are more likely to have chronic venous insufficiency if they have the following factors:
- High blood pressure
- Recent leg injury
- Family history of chronic venous insufficiency
This condition, while not extremely common, is manageable as patients can experience symptomatic relief from compression stockings. This condition causes swelling of the arms or legs due to the removal of or issues with lymph nodes or vessels. For temporary lymphedema, a compression level of 30 to 40 mmHg is best, while more extreme or permanent cases can benefit from 40+ mmHg.
Lymphedema is most common in people with these risk factors:
- Surgical removal of lymph nodes
- Damage to lymph nodes
- Radiation treatment of cancers
- Infection of lymph nodes
Deep vein thrombosis
This happens when a blood clot forms deep within the body, most commonly in the legs. For mild cases, a compression level of 25 to 40 mmHg should relieve symptoms. For extreme cases or post-thrombotic syndrome, you may need to increase to the 40+ mmHg level.
People with these risk factors are more susceptible to deep vein thrombosis:
- Family history of deep vein thrombosis
- Recent injury or surgery
- Oral contraceptives/hormone therapy
- Aging (60+ years old)
- Irritable Bowel Syndrome/Crohn’s Disease
- Heart failure
- Prolonged bed rest, paralysis, or long hospital stays
If you have questions or concerns regarding which compression level is best for your condition, reach out to a medical professional. It is important to note that compression levels that exceed 30 mmHg require a prescription. As such, it’s ideal to consult your doctor. Additionally, there are numerous personal preference features to consider as well, such as color and open or closed-toe. Once you decide on your compression level, try out our Measure Up tool to find the best fit for you. Jomi Compression acts as a professional fitter, so you don’t have to worry about not finding the proper stocking in stores.
- Elyse Aufmann