Support hose are stockings which are designed to promote circulation in the legs. They do so by providing variable compression of the leg to force bloodflow deep into the leg, encouraging blood to circulate throughout the leg. Numerous companies manufacture support hose, which may also be known as compression hose, support stockings, or compression stockings.
There are several grades of support hose available, classified by the amount of compression they provide. Drug stores often carry low grade support hose which can be purchased over the counter. For more compression, it's necessary to have support stockings fitted by prescription. This product can be dangerous if it is not used appropriately, which is why higher grade compression is not available over the counter. Prescription support garments may be provided through a hospital, doctor's office, physical therapy clinic, or prescription counter at a drug store.
There are a number of conditions for which support garments can be useful, including varicose veins, management of large scars, surgical recovery, edema, and clotting. Support hose are designed to be used as part of a larger medical program; for example, some people wear low-grade support socks on planes to combat deep vein thrombosis (DVT), but they still need to get up and move around during the flight to reduce the risk of developing a serious clot.
People in many occupations use support stocking to reduce stress on their legs. Nurses and other people who spend a lot of time on their feet such as retail clerks can find that support hose reduce the risk of varicose veins and make the legs more comfortable. They are also sometimes recommended for pregnant women, and some athletes wear support garments to improve performance. It is a good idea to consult a doctor or physical therapist before wearing support garments to get advice about the best grade to use, when and where they should be worn, and whether or not they are safe.
Support hose come in a number of forms, from short socks and stockings to knee high support hose to full on support pantyhose. Historically they are often thick and ugly, but today, companies can make support stockings which look like other hosiery and socks, allowing people to wear these garments without attracting attention. Support hose also comes in an array of colors so that it can be matched to various outfits.
Special products are available to provide support to diabetics, who can have problems with their feet. These products are known as diabetic socks or diabetic stockings, and they work slightly differently than support hose. Wearing support stockings can actually cause circulation problems for a diabetic patient.