Compression garments: over-the-counter or medical grade


Compression socks and their popularity have grown over the past few years. Compression socks help with circulation and have been recommended for athletes, pregnant women, airline passengers and crew, and people who work on their feet all day, such as retailers, nurses, doctors and delivery drivers. These types of compression socks can be purchased over-the-counter (OTC) at retail stores and online.

Compression garments, including socks, may be prescribed by a doctor for people with lymphedema to help drain lymphatic fluid. Medical-grade garments can be prescribed as a treatment to manage orthostatic hypotension, prevent deep vein thrombosis, reduce varicose vein pain, reverse venous hypertension, and other medical conditions.

So what’s the difference between OTC and medical-grade compression garments? The experts at Pretty In Pink share their thoughts on what sets OTC and Medical Grade compression garments apart.

Compression pressure and benefits

The biggest difference between OTC and Medical Grade is the amount of pressure the garment provides. The amount of pressure aids in the preferred outcome of your compression garments.

Compression garments are measured by pressure, in mmHg, which means millimeters of mercury (also used in blood pressure measurements).

Light compression

  • 8-15mmHg
  • Helps relieve mild pain, helps with standing or sitting for long periods of time
  • Can be purchased over-the-counter

Moderate compression

  • 15-20mmHg
  • Helps with tired legs and long hours of standing or sitting
  • Can be purchased over-the-counter

Firm compression

  • 20-30mmHg
  • Helps with tired and aching legs, slight swelling during pregnancy and mild cases of lymphedema
  • Medical grade, sometimes available over-the-counter

Extra firm compression

  • 30-40mmHg
  • Helps with moderate to severe lymphedema, moderate swelling, moderate venous conditions
  • Medical grade, available by prescription only

heavy compression

  • 40-50mmHg and 50-60mmHg
  • Used to treat severe cases of lymphedema
  • Medical grade, available by prescription only

Get the perfect fit

A medical-grade compression garment should always be fitted by a certified compression fitter, like the pros at Pretty In Pink.

A fit for a compression garment will include a compression fitter reviewing medical history, current skin conditions, and the garment prescription to determine the level of compression needed. The Certified Installer will then measure the affected area and determine the size of the garment.

A compression garment must:

  • Cover the entire affected area
  • Be tight, but allow normal movement
  • Have no baggy or loose areas
  • Be comfortable, providing firm support that isn’t too tight
  • Cause no pain

Settle into Pretty In Pink Boutique

Pretty In Pink Boutique in Central Tennessee has a caring team of certified compression fitters and offers medical grade compression garments.

If you are living with lymphedema, Pretty in Pink Shop will walk by your side and offer you products to make your journey as comfortable as possible. Contact us at 615-777-7465 or write to us at [email protected] to schedule your appointment at one of our four Middle Tennessee locations.


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