You may or may not know that when we are sitting or standing without movement for a long period of time, we are actually depriving our body of a very natural function to help our blood circulate more efficiently.
The function I am referring to is the natural flexing of our leg muscles. When we are walking, jogging or moving our feet in a rocking motion, we are automatically activating our calve muscles. The alternating flexing and relaxing motion of the calf muscles acts like a built-in pump inside the lower legs to help circulate the blood.
In addition to the calf muscles, the veins in the legs are also equipped with what could be described as one-way valves, which are designed to prevent back flow and encourage blood flow only in the direction to the heart.
The calf muscle movement squeezes the arteries in the legs in a gentle rhythm. This helps pushing the blood in the leg veins against gravity back up toward the heart and lungs to be re-oxygenated.
When a person is immobile for long periods of time, as can be the case with jobs that demand long periods of sitting or standing as well as riding on a plane, train, bus or in a car, this pumping action of the calf muscles is “turned off”. The blood circulation is then somewhat slowed down or at least not as efficient as when a person is walking.
You may be thinking “Why would this be a problem – many people encounter these types of situations on a daily basis” and you would be correct. BUT the fact is that many people are still unaware that this could actually present a problem.
When a person is sitting or standing immobile for extended periods of time, blood is more likely to pool in the lower legs and feet, which could also lead to swelling. In the worst case scenario, the risk of blood clots can be increased.
In medical terms this is also known as deep vein thrombosis or DVT. This can be compounded if an individual has any existing vein problems, such as defective valves inside the leg veins or even some varicose veins.
Blood clots in the leg veins can be dangerous because if they break loose they can travel up to the heart and into the lungs where they could become lodged. Such a potentially life threatening event is known as a pulmonary embolism, which requires immediate medical emergency attention.
What can Compression Stockings do for Circulation?
Compression stockings or support pantyhose with graduated compression are designed to counteract the negative effects from sedentary periods of sitting or standing. Due to the strong downward pull of gravity our circulation needs all the help it can get, which normally comes naturally from contracting the calf muscles when we are active and moving around.
When we cannot move around, the graduated compression of compression stockings and other support hosiery can assist by giving a boost to help improve blood circulation back up the legs.
The principle of graduated compression that is inherent to these specialized stockings or pantyhose is that they work by firmly squeezing the legs, beginning with the highest compression at the ankles. From there the applied pressure then gradually relents as the support garment progresses up the leg where it finally exerts the least compression at the upper thigh. This graduated compression also prevents or reduces swelling in the feet and ankle area and re-energizes the legs.
If you still have notions of unattractive “Granny” style support stockings or pantyhose lodged in your mind you can forget that immediately.
Thanks to the modern miracles of highly advanced nylon and elastane fibers as well as cutting edge manufacturing techniques, today’s shopper can enjoy support pantyhose and stockings that are sheerer and more attractive than ever before.
In fact, they are so fashionable and colorful that even models, stars and royalties will wear them for their public appearances.
As a final FYI it should also be pointed out for the women who love their high heels that wearing them on a regular basis can significantly diminish the calf muscle pumping function for the veins, because they can significantly reduce or even prevent the natural rocking motion of the feet when walking, which remains unimpaired with flat heeled shoes.
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