Wearing Compression Stockings After Surgery: Everything You Need to Know

If you’ve got a major surgery coming up, especially if that surgery affects your lower leg, your doctor may recommend wearing compression stockings after surgery to help boost your recovery. In fact, graduated compression stockings offer six distinct benefits for post-surgery patients, from reducing swelling to protecting against DVT.

A caveat before we break down these six advantages: No matter how beneficial compression stockings are, you should not wear them after surgery without the explicit instruction of your doctor. If you think you might benefit from wearing compression stockings after surgery, but your doctor hasn’t prescribed them, talk to them before you decide to get yourself some.

elderly woman swollen feet

1. Promotes Circulation

Doctors often recommend that you restrict your movements after surgery, so the surgical site can heal. (Movement, among other things, can increase your chances of disturbing your stitches.) Even if it’s for the best, just lying around on the bed or the couch is really bad for your circulation since movement makes your heart pump more and stimulates blood flow by working your muscles. Graduated compression stockings encourage your blood to keep flowing by applying gentle pressure that tapers up your legs. This pressure encourages circulation even when you can’t move, making compression stockings a great solution for post-surgery patients on bed rest.

2. Reduces Swelling

Some level of swelling is common and even expected after surgery. However, extreme swelling is not, and it can hamper your recovery and even lead to complications. Wearing compression stockings after surgery helps reduce swelling because the specially woven fabric does not allow your skin to expand, forcing the fluid to dissipate instead of settling in one place and causing swelling. For best results, compression stockings should be donned before you have a chance to swell very much, usually in the early morning right when you wake up. However, if your doctor instructs you to wear your compression stockings at any other time (such as during sleep), follow their rules first and foremost.

spider veins

3. Helps Prevent Spider and Varicose Veins

Spider and varicose veins are a common side effect of poor circulation. The veins in your legs only flow one way, but when blood backs up, it puts pressure on the veins and can even cause the valves to malfunction. This excess blood can cause your veins to bulge and darken, resulting in varicose veins and spider veins. Spider veins are mostly cosmetic, showing up as thin dark lines close to the skin. Varicose veins are usually larger and darker, and they may even bulge out from the skin. They can also be painful or make you feel achy. By promoting better circulation, compression stockings reduce your chances of developing spider and varicose veins after surgery.

4. Discourages Symptoms of DVT

Deep vein thrombosis (DVT) is a serious condition that occurs when a blood clot forms deep in the veins. Such blood clots usually form in the legs, but they can manifest in other deep veins of the body as well. If the blood clot breaks off and travels, it can cause severe problems in the lungs in the form of a pulmonary embolism. Signs of DVT include pain in your leg, red or discolored skin and a feeling of warmth. Surgery increases your chances of developing DVT, and having to remain sedentary also contributes to your risk—but wearing compression socks can help decrease the risk of developing DVT.

patient in bed

5. Aids in Speeding Your Healing Process

Blood carries oxygen and other nutrients that are vital to your body’s many processes. Among many other things, the regular circulation of blood promotes the healing process and also makes sure that medications are absorbed into the bloodstream and distributed quickly. Thus, encouraging good circulation by wearing compression stockings after surgery can actually help speed up the healing process and help you get back on your feet sooner (literally and metaphorically). Of course, compression stockings can’t replace other parts of your post-surgery treatment, including changing your dressing regularly and taking your medication on schedule.

6. Promotes a Safer Recovery

All of these factors combine to make your recovery safer overall. Graduated compression stockings improve circulation and reduce swelling, which helps prevent DVT and spider/varicose veins as well as speed up healing times. Compression stockings are also noninvasive and relatively inexpensive in the scheme of medical treatments, making them a great complement to other treatments.

Recovery from surgery is a long journey, but wearing compression socks can help ease the way. Keep these six benefits in mind as you shop for compression stockings to wear after surgery.

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