If you’re living with multiple sclerosis (MS), you may have heard that compression socks (also called compression stockings) can help when it comes to managing MS symptoms. But how do these compression garments work, and what benefits can they offer if you have MS?
Here are three ways that compression socks may help alleviate some of your MS symptoms.
MS has been linked to an increased risk of cardiovascular and circulatory issues, including heart attack, stroke, heart failure, and blood clots. The exact cause behind this correlation is unclear. However, evidence suggests that poor circulation due to a lack of activity may be responsible.
Common MS symptoms include chronic pain, numbness/tingling, muscle weakness, and increased fatigue. All of these issues can slow or inhibit day-to-day activities, making exercising or staying active more challenging. This, in turn, can lead to poor circulation and potential cardiovascular problems.
Compression socks and stockings can be an effective solution in treating poor circulation and improving blood flow. They work by squeezing (compressing) areas in your legs so blood doesn’t linger too long in one place, helping it move through your body and back up to your heart. This can potentially alleviate symptoms caused by poor circulation, including worsened fatigue, cold or numb hands and feet, varicose veins, and high blood pressure.
MS may cause swelling (also called edema) in your lower extremities, including your feet and ankles. This is often due to a buildup of lymphatic fluid, which can be caused by a lack of mobility. Depending on the severity, swollen ankles and feet can be bothersome and affect day-to-day life, further inhibiting mobility.
Compression socks not only help with reducing existing swelling but can also prevent future swelling from occurring in your lower leg area. They do this by gently squeezing the legs, which increases the pressure in the body’s tissues and reduces excess fluid leakage.
Poor circulation in the body increases the chance of developing blood clots. Individuals with MS may be more susceptible to poor circulation and resulting complications due to reduced mobility and activity levels, and one of these complications involves blood clots.
When wearing compression socks, the blood is not able to pool or linger in one place for too long, improving circulation and reducing the chance of blood clots. These socks can help prevent more serious complications down the line, including blood clots clogging the bloodstream and resulting in heart attack, stroke, or other cardiovascular emergencies.
Several MyMSTeam members have shared that they wear compression stockings to help manage some of their MS symptoms.
One member asked about stiffness and swelling in her arms and thighs as a result of her MS. In response, another member said they used compression stockings “for my feet and legs … and it truly helps.” They also mentioned that they were using “compression gloves” to remedy similar issues in their hands.
Another member wrote that he wears compression socks to stave off future clots: “I had a blood clot, and after that, I always wear my compression socks every day, and my legs feel much better.”
Compression socks aren’t a cure-all, and some MyMSTeam members have reported discomfort while wearing them. One said she felt “numbness/leg tingling” when wearing compression socks. Another wrote that, despite wearing compression socks, his feet and legs were still in a great deal of pain, although another member added that they “never give up trying” with their compression socks.
Compression socks come in a variety of styles and sizes, so you may need to try a few options before finding one with the right fit and level of compression. As always, consult your health care provider for medical advice before trying compression therapy or any other over-the-counter options for managing MS symptoms.
Living with multiple sclerosis can be challenging, but that doesn’t mean you have to go through this journey alone. On MyMSTeam, the social network for people with MS and their loved ones, more than 185,000 people with multiple sclerosis and their loved ones gather to support each other. Here, you can find answers to your questions and join a community of active members ready and willing to help you every step of the way.
Have you tried compression socks? Have they helped your MS symptoms? Share your story in the comments below or by posting on MyMSTeam.