Measuring for compression socks

Why should you measure?

The compression socks you choose must fit you properly to maximise therapeutic success. Most manufacturers provide compression socks in a variety of sizes so it is fairly easy for most people to find appropriate sizes. Custom made socks may be necessary if the sizes available are either too small or too large for you or if a compression level of 50 mm Hg or higher is required.

Who should measure and when?

It is advisable to have a trained medical professional carry out the measurements for you. However, it might be necessary for you to determine your size on your own if you want to buy your compression apparel online or require to adjust the size of your current pair after weight loss or weight gain. Measurements should be taken early in the morning when the leg is at its smallest size.

How to measure?

 While simple measurements of size, height and weight may determine the dimensions on light compression socks, most compression apparels require measurement of the circumference of the leg at specific points. It is advisable to use a tape measure to carry out measurements. A string and a ruler may suffice as well. Use the string to make the measurements and the ruler to determine the specific lengths in centimetres.

Step 1: Mark the leg at each circumferential point (ankle, calf and thigh) with a non-permanent, non-toxic marker.

Step 2: Measure the length of the leg from the floor to each marked circumference point and write the measurements down on a piece of paper.

Step 3:  Find the narrowest point of your ankle, measure the circumference and write it down as “ankle measurement”.

Ankle circumference

Step 4: Find the largest part of your calf, measure, and write it down as “calf measurement”. You may need to measure the bottom, middle and top parts of your calf to find the largest part of your calf.

Calf circumference

Step 5: Take off any shoes or sandals you may be wearing and measure the entire length of the leg from the floor to the area just below the bend of your knee. It is crucial that you measure the length of your leg accurately as compression socks that are too long or too short may be uncomfortable and ineffective. Write the measurement of your leg down and label it “length measurement”. If you require knee-high compression socks, then you need not perform any more measurements. You can now find compare your measurements to an appropriate sizing chart and determine the size of compression socks that is most suitable for you.

Length (Knee-high compression socks)

Step 6: If you require thigh-high compression apparel, you will need to have measurements of your thigh circumference and length of your entire leg. Follow the instructions above from steps one to four. After step four, measure your thigh circumference by finding the widest part of your thigh, usually the area right under your buttocks and measure its circumference. Write its length down under the label “thigh circumference”.

Thigh circumference

Step 7: Measure the length of your leg from the floor to the top of your thigh. Write the measurement down on your piece of paper. Compare these measurements with an appropriate sizing chart to determine what size of compression stockings is most suitable for you.

Length (Thigh-high compression stockings)

Who should not wear compression socks?

People whose legs are severely deformed or whose legs are so unusually shaped that they cannot be measured.

Patients presenting with severe peripheral neuropathy or other cases of nervous and sensory impairment.

Patients with suspected or proven allergies to some fabrics used to make compression socks. Patients with severe allergic reactions to materials could develop skin dermatitis and blisters upon contact with compression socks. However, it may be possible to change the material of your compression socks.

Patients with suspected or diagnosed peripheral arterial disease or those who have undergone surgery involving peripheral arterial bypass. The use of compression therapy on legs with a weakened arterial flow could increase the severity of ischemia.

People who have undergone recent skin grafts, people with fragile and over-sensitive skin, people who have infected skin tissue with gangrene causing bacteria, people with skin that is oozing or are suffering from severe cellulitis or dermatitis.

You must consult your doctor before you start using compression apparel. Taking this crucial step will ensure that compression therapy is safe for you and will not exacerbate any pre-existing conditions.

What complications are associated with wearing compression socks?

Compression socks are incredibly safe to use with a relatively low rate of complications/side effects. However, inappropriately worn compression socks can cause severe complications, and add to your discomfort. For more information about how to wear your compression socks to prevent complications, check out our next article. Excess or poorly distributed pressure may cause damage to the skin, especially in the elderly and malnourished individuals and patients with fragile skin. You must purchase compression socks in the correct measurements as poorly fitting socks are incredibly uncomfortable and may lead to tissue necrosis. Practically all complications resulting from the use of compression socks can are avoidable if you purchase the correct size of socks and follow the proper procedure for wearing them. If you feel any discomfort while wearing compression socks, consider having your measurements retaken by a trained professional. You could also consider changing to a lower compression level or switching to a different material.

When should you contact your doctor?

If you develop a severe allergic reaction to the material of your compression socks or experience tingling, numbness, pain, swelling in your legs, skin damage, redness or oozing while wearing your compression socks, contact your doctor/nurse immediately.

Deciding to stop wearing your compression socks

It is fairly easy to stop wearing compression socks if they were not prescribed as part of therapeutic intervention to a clinical condition. However, if your doctor specifically prescribed compression therapy for you, then you should consult with him/her before deciding to stop wearing your compression socks. Many of the factors that lead to non-compliance such as; discomfort, excessive heat, skin irritation, cost and appearance can be solved by changing the stocking material or lowering the level of compression. However, if you are concerned that purchasing compression socks may be too expensive, then obtain a prescription from your doctor. Your insurance can cover the purchase if you have a prescription. On the other hand, if you are concerned about the appearance of compression socks, it might be useful to discuss your doctor’s reason for prescribing the compression socks with him/her. There could be alternatives forms of treatment available for you.