Compression Apparel: Over-The-Counter vs. Medical Grade

From Pretty in Pink Boutique


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

Compression garments, including socks, can be prescribed by a doctor for those with lymphedema as a way to assist in draining lymphatic fluid. Medical grade garments can be prescribed as a treatment for managing orthostatic hypotension, preventing deep vein thrombosis, reducing pain related to varicose veins, reversing venous hypertension, and other medical ailments.

So what is the difference between OTC and Medical Grade compression apparel? The experts at Pretty In Pink share their insights on what sets OTC and Medical Grade compression apparel 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

  • 8-15 mmHg
  • Helps with mild aching, support for standing or sitting for long periods
  • Can be purchased over-the-counter

Moderate Compression

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

Firm Compression

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

Extra Firm Compression 

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

Heavy Compression 

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

Getting the Perfect Fit

A medical-grade compression garment should always be fitted by a Certified Compression Fitter, like the pros at Pretty In Pink Boutique.

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

A compression garment should:

  • Cover the entire affected area
  • Be tight, but allow for normal movement
  • Not have any baggy or loose areas
  • Be comfortable, giving firm support that is not too tight
  • Not cause any pain

Get Fitted at Pretty In Pink Boutique

Pretty In Pink Boutique in Middle Tennessee has a caring team of Certified Compression Fitters and carries medical-grade compression garments.

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

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