How to figure out regular compression socks and medical stockings

Table of Contents

Compression socks and medical stockings are specialized hosiery designed to apply compression to the legs, promoting blood flow and reducing swelling. While both serve to improve circulation, their specific uses and benefits differ significantly. Compression socks are generally used by athletes, travelers, and individuals who spend extended periods on their feet. These socks offer varying compression levels to enhance performance, prevent blood clots, and alleviate symptoms of varicose veins and mild edema.

Medical stockings, however, are intended for more targeted medical conditions. They are prescribed for chronic venous insufficiency, deep vein thrombosis, and severe varicose veins, offering higher levels of compression tailored to specific medical needs. Medical stockings come in various types, including varicose vein stockings, maternity compression pants, and anti-thrombosis socks. Depending on the country, they often require manufacturers to have certifications like ISO 13485 or FDA approval.

In this article, we will distinguish between regular compression socks and medical stockings by examining their knitting methods and machinery, features, styles and lengths, designs and color options, and manufacturer qualifications.

compression socks

Knitting Methods, Machinery, and Needles

Comparison of machines used for knitting regular compression socks versus medical stockings

The production of compression socks and medical stockings involves different knitting methods and machinery, directly impacting their functionality, cost, and availability.

**Machines for Regular Compression Socks:**

Regular compression socks are typically knitted using circular knitting machines. These machines are highly efficient and can produce socks quickly, making them cost-effective and widely available. Circular knitting machines use needles arranged in a circular pattern to knit the fabric continuously, allowing for seamless and uniform compression. This method is ideal for producing large quantities of socks in various designs and colors, catering to the diverse needs of athletes, travelers, and everyday users.

Here’s a simple video of how regular machines produce socks.

**Machines for Medical Stockings:**

On the other hand, medical stockings are often produced using flatbed or specialized circular knitting machines designed for medical-grade hosiery. Flatbed knitting machines create the fabric on a flat surface, allowing for more precise control over the compression levels and patterns. This precision is crucial for medical stockings, which need to provide specific and consistent pressure to treat medical conditions effectively. 

medical machine production

Specialized circular knitting machines used for medical stockings incorporate advanced technology to ensure accurate compression gradients and seamless construction, minimizing the risk of skin irritation. These machines often include additional features such as computer-controlled tension adjustments and inspection systems to maintain high-quality standards required for medical-grade products.

Needles used for medical and regular compression socks

Previously, we mentioned that the standard needle counts for socks are 144, 168, 200, and 220 needles. Regular compression socks also use these needle counts. Additionally, our factory has machines capable of producing larger sizes.

For medical stockings, the needle count starts at 300 and typically ranges from 320, 360, 400, to 420 needles. Visually, socks with higher needle counts appear finer and more delicate than those with lower ones.

Impact of machinery on the cost and availability of medical stockings

The use of more advanced and precise machinery in the production of medical stockings leads to higher manufacturing costs compared to regular compression sock, and machine price is normally 10-20 times higher than regular one, popular medical machine brands are Lonati and Merz and our factory have both machines. Additionally, the need for stringent quality control and compliance with medical certifications further increases the cost and limits the availability of medical stockings. As a result, medical stockings are typically more expensive and may require a prescription or professional fitting.

In contrast, the simpler and faster production process of regular compression socks makes them more affordable and readily available in a wide range of styles and compression levels. This accessibility makes them suitable for general use, while medical stockings are reserved for specific therapeutic applications.

Features Medical compression socks vs. Regular compression socks

The difference between medical compression socks and regular compression socks should be well-known by now. In simple terms, medical compression socks are designed for therapeutic purposes, such as for patients with varicose veins, to prevent edema after surgery, and for patients with reversible lymphedema. Regular compression socks, on the other hand, are more for everyday use. Regular compression socks can improve leg health by boosting circulation and reducing fatigue through better support and recovery.

Specification differences on styles, lengths, designs, and color

Medical stockings come in various types, each designed to address specific medical conditions:

  • Varicose Vein Stockings: These are designed to alleviate symptoms associated with varicose veins, providing targeted compression to improve blood flow.
  • Maternity Compression Pants: Specially designed for pregnant women, these pants help reduce swelling and discomfort in the legs.
  • Anti-Thrombosis Socks: These socks are used to prevent blood clots, especially during periods of prolonged inactivity such as post-surgery or during long flights.
anti embolism stockings
varicose vein stockings
non slip cuff medical stocking

Availability of Different Lengths and Their Applications

Medical stockings and regular compression socks are available in different lengths to suit various needs:

  • Knee-High: Provides compression from the foot to just below the knee. They are commonly used for conditions like mild varicose veins and swelling.
  • Thigh-High: Extends up to the thigh, offering additional support and compression. Suitable for more severe varicose veins and deep vein thrombosis.
  • Pantyhose: Full-length compression stockings that cover the entire leg and abdomen. It is ideal for comprehensive support and conditions like chronic venous insufficiency.

Designs and Color Options

Both regular compression socks and medical stockings come in a range of designs and colors to cater to different preferences and needs:

  • Regular Compression Socks: Often available in various patterns, colors, and styles to appeal to athletes, travelers, and everyday users. They can be found in casual, athletic, and dress sock styles.
  • Medical Stockings: Primarily designed for function, they typically come in neutral colors like beige, black, and white to maintain a professional and discreet appearance. The focus is on providing effective compression while maintaining a suitable look for daily wear, resulting in limited design options as the emphasis is on medical functionality rather than aesthetics.

Manufacturer Qualifications For Regular and Medical Compression Socks

Regular Compression Socks:

  • Qualifications: Manufacturers usually need standard quality control certifications and adherence to industry regulations.
  • Compliance: Ensure compliance with relevant health and safety standards for non-medical compression wear.

Medical Stockings:

  • Qualifications: Require more stringent certifications like ISO 13485, and FDA approval to ensure they meet medical standards.
  • Compliance: Must comply with medical device regulations and undergo rigorous testing to validate their efficacy and safety.

Understanding the distinctions between regular compression socks and medical stockings is crucial for selecting the right product for your needs. From the intricate knitting methods and specialized machinery to the specific needles used, each element plays a significant role in defining the quality and functionality of these products. Medical compression socks and stockings are crafted with more stringent standards to meet specific medical requirements, which is reflected in their features, specifications, and overall design.

Whether it’s the machinery that impacts cost and availability or the unique features that differentiate medical from regular compression socks, being well-informed can help you make better choices. Additionally, considering manufacturer qualifications ensures that you are getting a reliable and effective product.

Max Hosiery specializes in producing high-quality compression socks and medical stockings tailored to meet your needs. Explore our range of products and discover the perfect solution for your requirements.

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