Thanks to my stubborn genes, I have edema, or chronic swelling in my ankles. As if cankles weren’t enough, varicose veins made an appearance in my forties (thanks to genetics and three pregnancies), with a side of restless legs syndrome (RLS) thrown in just to seriously mess with my sleep. Wait, there’s more… Before I turned 50, I had to pee at least twice a night, sometimes three times. This is annoying enough at home, but when you love camping, it’s downright exhausting to get out of a sleeping bag, unzip the tent, and walk into the dark unknown to find the toilets. I’m not big on popping pills, so I decided to do my own research on possible natural remedies. I read a study on the National Institutes of Health page about managing nocturia (the fancy term for having to pee a lot at night), and it showed that compression socks were found to help people like me. Other studies pointed to compression socks for RLS relief. Ugly or not, I had to give them a shot.
I ordered graduated compression stockings, which means the compression is strongest at the ankle and gets lighter up the leg. I’m not going to lie: When I pulled them up my legs, I instantly felt like I was 90 years old (no offense to my dear grandmother). They were also really snug, and I was worried that they would cut off my circulation and leave me passed out on the floor.
When I pulled them up my legs, I instantly felt like I was 90 years old.
But during the next few hours, I noticed that my legs felt oddly comfy in the compression socks. They felt stronger and didn’t ache as much. Great for daytime but what would happen tonight when the usual heaviness and “urge to move” set in my legs? I took the socks off after dinner and settled in to watch TV. I was shocked that I didn’t have to get up and move around or do heel raises to alleviate the “urge to move” in my legs!
Next up, the nocturia test. I did get up to pee that night, but only once, and at my age, that’s normal. I woke up the next day refreshed for the first time in a long time. Could this just be a placebo effect?
I put the socks on again and in the next 29 days, the same results followed—when I didn’t forget to wear them. Early into the 30 days, I forgot to wash my socks and boarded a cross-country flight without wearing them. The “urge to move” in my legs was unbearable, and I didn’t want to keep troubling the people in my row to get up and walk the aisles. Should have worn the dirty socks! Not long after that I took a long road trip to a camping and hiking destination and thankfully wore my socks. Big difference! No “urge to move,” and only one potty break.
Turns out compression socks gave my poor circulation a boost in the right direction—as in, away from ankles and back up to my heart, increasing blood flow to all my vital organs.
Now that I’m going to be wearing compression socks on the regular, I’ve graduated from the fugly, beige variety and found a plethora of more colorful, more flattering styles. If you’re considering checking them out, stick with a 15 to 20 mmHg (millimeter of mercury or rate of compression) for mild symptoms, or consult your doc before trying socks with greater compression.
MORE: Did you know that there are certain foods and spices that will also boost your blood circulation?