Gradient compression garments are used to increase blood circulation and reduce swelling in those with circulation disorders and can also assist in athletic performance. Gradient compression socks, for example, apply the greatest amount of pressure near the ankle and decreases as it extends up the calf, stopping under the knee cap. Athletic gradient compression garments, usually made of spandex, offer support all over the body using the same principles to provide structural support. Athletes also use them as a recovery aid. That doesn’t mean that they are only meant for the athletically inclined.
Gradient compression garments are often used in hospitals where patients are very sedentary. After an operation, sedentary patients are at risk of deep vein thrombosis, or DVT. This is a condition in which a blood clot forms in a deep vein. DVT normally forms in the lower leg but can also occur in other parts of the body. According to the UK National Health Service, an untreated DVT can lead to a pulmonary embolism in 1 in 10 of those affected. Pulmonary embolisms occur when the clot breaks loose and travels through the bloodstream to the lungs. The clot can block the blood flow to the lungs which can cause a patient to have trouble breathing, experience chest pain and lose consciousness. If not treated, it can lead to serious complications and even death.
Other conditions where the use of compression garments may be prescribed may include varicose veins (swollen and enlarged veins usually in the legs), skin ulcers, and lymphedema (painful swelling of the lymph nodes.) According to WebMD, gradient compression socks or stockings should be worn at all times except during bathing and sleeping to improve blood flow and problems such as blood pooling in the legs.
Patients may have concerns over whether their health insurance may cover gradient compression stockings. Many insurance companies will cover them if they are considered medically necessary. Patients should always call their insurance company to check if they are covered. Aetna Healthcare lists several conditions that the company considers gradient compression garments to be medically necessary including: Lipodermatosclerosis, Stasis dermatitis (venous eczema), Varicose veins (except spider veins), and Venous edema.
Gradient compression sportswear has several options for athletes including shirts, sleeves, shorts, socks, tights, and more. These garments are often used by athletes such as runners and basketball players to improve circulation and decrease the amount of time that they need to spend recovering. Wearing gradient compression sportswear post-game or activity can also benefit athletes in the same manor.
Gradient compression garments are also likely to help anyone who needs assistance with improving and maintaining circulation. Those at risk of clots in the legs, especially those who are bedbound for a time after surgery, will benefit from wearing compression garments the most. People at risk of deep vein thrombosis, and subsequently a pulmonary embolism, should discuss with their doctor whether compression stockings will help. You don’t have to be an athlete to get the added benefit of gradient compression clothing so the first step is learning more about how you can benefit from the health tool everyone should have.