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What are Compression Socks?

Are compression socks good for you? The short answer is, ‘yes.’

Compression socks, also called compression stockings, are specially designed therapeutic socks that stretch and help exert pressure on your leg to encourage blood flow. The socks are recommended for anyone whose daily routine or activities forces them to spend many hours sitting, standing or lying down.

So, if you are a writer or someone who sits all day working online; or a doctor, a nurse, a pilot or a passenger on a long flight, then you need these socks. Pregnant women, athletes, patients on bed-rest or people at risk of varicose veins need these stockings to help prevent the discomfort of swollen legs, pain and aching as well as potential blood clots.

Why compression socks? It has more to do with benefits as the socks’ design improves the way blood flows in the legs, especially up the body.

Why do you need to put one compression socks then? Partly, it’s because “prevention is better than cure,” and having these socks on might be the difference when it comes to avoiding potential health problems.

Who else would need compression socks?

In many cases, people will go for compression socks after a recommendation from their healthcare provider. However, it doesn’t have to be medical reasons that make one wear the stockings.

The benefits of these socks can also extend to the average person. Apart from deep vein thrombosis (DVT) and varicose veins, this type of socks is advisable for those using birth control pills; those with leg ulcers; or those whose family members have a history blood clot disorders.

If you are getting into any of the jobs or situations mentioned above, then it is paramount that you find yourself a good pair of compression socks. Because they can be worn by anyone, the socks also come in different makes and at varied costs. Read on to find out the different considerations you need to make before acquiring a pair for yourself.

But before we get there, let’s clear one question many people have bearing in mind that we have said anyone can wear compression socks.

Who might need professional advice to use compression socks?

We have noted that compression socks are mostly safe and can be worn by most people without running into any sort of complications or side effects. However, there are certain categories of people who might need to get professional advice before they use these stockings.

If you have a skin infection, pulmonary edema or peripheral neuropathy, then it is advisable to talk to your health care provider before you buy and use compression socks. Peripheral neuropathy may see the user fail to register how tight the compression is and thus affect blood circulation. Others likely to find compression stockings uncomfortable or could be affected by its use are people with peripheral artery disease. These people may face problems when the socks end up affecting oxygen flow in the legs due to poor blood flow.

In short, a person with any of the following should not wear compression socks unless they have been advised to do so by their doctors.

  • Dermatitis
  • History of leg swelling
  • Pulmonary edema
  • Peripheral artery disease,
  • Peripheral neuropathy

Note that some of the infections and conditions listed above could actually worsen when one uses compression socks, especially when the chosen socks are tighter than advised.

What should you consider when buying compression socks?

For someone who spends long hours sitting, standing or lying in bed, then getting the right compression socks is necessary. Here are a few considerations to make as you go out to purchase socks to help prevent challenges like leg swelling or DVT.

Get the right fit

The key here is to avoid getting socks that are either too loose or too tight. But while you need to be keen, you don’t have to worry as compression socks usually come in sizes that correspond to shoe sizes.

While there may be up to 5 different types, knowing your shoe size should help you get the right fit. In determining the right fit for you, pay attention to measurements of your ankle and calf.

When picking the right length as shown below, it is important to then consider how long the sock can be to reach the knees or thigh. For better comfort, go for knee-high compression socks.

Pressure ratings

As mentioned earlier, compression socks have different pressure ratings and it’s good to pick one that is at the right level for your specific need. For those seeking comfort that spends long hours sitting or standing, and need comfort as well as prevent problems, then they would be advised to go for the 15-20mmHg pressure compression socks.

Those with some kind of swelling should buy compression stockings with a pressure level of 20-30mmHg. If you are affected by a condition like varicose veins, or DVT, (among other conditions), then go for socks that have a pressure level at 30-40mmHg.

What is the right length for you? –

This consideration might be due to your taste, which means one can go for a knee-high pair, or thigh-high stocking. You could also fancy a foot-less design, but this choice means you might need to consult a specialist to determine whether they are suitable for your specific condition.

Where do you buy the compression socks?

Developments in e-commerce mean that it is much easier and even cheaper to get compression stockings online.

While this is good for the fast-paced world we live in, the general piece of advice is we buy our first pair at a physical medical facility or store. This is so because we then get to access the services of a professional who can help us pick the right fit as well as take us through the process of properly wearing the socks.

Other considerations include:

  • Finding out if your health insurance can pay for the compression socks
  • Find out if your health care provider recommends it
  • Ensure you have the correct measurements of your legs taken

What level of compression (or pressure) is good for you?

The market has compression socks that offer pressure based on 4-5 levels, which means that one would need to pick the level that best aids blood flow as well as relieves discomfort. We measure the level of compression in millimeters of mercury (mmHg), and pressure levels increase in line with the level of compression required.

A healthy individual seeking a compression sock for comfort will go for the lowest pressure levels of under 15 mmHg. This is ideal for people who are only concerned about impact standing or sitting for long hours. The other levels are 15-20 mmHg, 20-30 mmHg, 30-40 mmHg, and 40+ mmHg.

If you are planning to have a long international flight, then a compression sock with 15-20 mmHg will help you avoid leg swelling or DVT.

Pressure levels above 20mmHg are suitable for use by those affected by varicose veins and edema. Patients who have just had surgery and are likely to stay in bed for long hours also use such compression socks to help prevent potential blood clots.


There is a lot one would need to know about compression socks, but the basic idea is that it is advisable for those likely to sit or stand for long hours or due to medical reasons. Go on and find one pair of compression stockings and explore its benefits. 

Compression socks for varicose veins and DVT

Compression socks for varicose veins and DVT

Many people who use compression socks do so following a doctor’s prescription. Also known as pressure stockings, compression socks mainly help in improving the overall circulation of blood up from the leg to the heart. They also work in helping reduce the swelling that can affect a person who sits or stands for long hours.

Whether you wear them on one leg or both legs will depend on the reason you need them. In most cases, you will need compression socks in the following situations:

  • When your legs ache or are swollen
  • In the case of varicose veins and other related skin conditions
  • If you have deep vein thrombosis (DVT)
  • In the case of lymphoedema.

Note: Not everyone who wears compression socks does so as a result of advice from a doctor or health care provider. Some athletes wear them as they help improve blood flow when working out, while pregnant women may don them to reduce swelling.

Compression socks for varicose veins

Varicose veins appear when blood pools within the small veins as a result of poor circulation. In such a case, blood collects in the veins and does not flow normally back to the heart. The varicose veins are often painful, and will mostly be visible in the legs.

Often, health care providers will recommend that you buy compression socks when you have varicose veins. The pressure socks help improve blood flow through the veins in the legs and thus reduce the swelling and pain.


Compression socks do not eliminate varicose veins by themselves. However, research has shown that they can be very helpful. A recent study showed that donning socks of between 15 mmHg and 20mHg was helpful to people with varicose veins.

In the study, a week’s use of the socks helped reduce swelling and the associated pain. Individual women affected by the varicose veins were also found to greatly benefit from the compression socks during pregnancy.

While the use of compression socks help reduce pain and swelling in people with varicose veins, studies have shown that better results have occurred when medication or surgical procedures are used.

Notably, doctors may recommend that a patient use compression socks after they undergo surgery to remove varicose veins. The advice is often made to avoid the prospect of the condition redeveloping, especially where the person sits or stands for an extended period.

Importantly though, using compression socks can greatly reduce the likelihood of developing varicose veins if your daily routine puts you at increased risk.

Compression socks for deep vein thrombosis (DVT)

Deep vein thrombosis (DVT) occurs when an individual’s blood flow is affected and ends up clotting within veins. Unlike varicose veins, DVT occurs in veins that are deep in the body and are thus not visible.

An individual can suffer DVT in any part of the body, but they are most common in lower body- thighs, and legs. If you have the condition, you may indicate with symptoms such as leg swelling, aching or pain.

It is important to note that DVT can be dangerous to your health, especially as blood clots may find their way into the lungs and proceed to block an artery. As such, health care providers recommend that you use compression socks to improve blood circulation and reduce the swelling.

Which compression socks are good for DVT?

Most users will prefer the graduated compression stockings. These are snugly socks that are tighter beginning at the ankle and reduce their strength up the leg. The pressure in these socks help push blood up the leg and prevents the risk of having it pooled in the lower leg, a scenario that could lead to blood clots.

Research has shown that compression socks can play a big role in preventing the occurrence of DVT in patients. One such study sampled over 1,600, with results showing a correlation between wearing compression socks and the prevention of conditions like deep vein thrombosis.

The study revealed that wearing the socks reduces the risk of blood clots and thus DVT by as much as 60 percent. Of those not to use compression stockings, more than 21 percent developed deep vein thrombosis.

Doctors will often recommend compression socks after a surgical process or in case an individual has been diagnosed with DVT. You can, however, wear them in the aftermath of a leg trauma or if you are likely to sit for more than four hours in a less flexible posture.

A health care provider will also recommend compression socks for you if you have DVT for the sole reason of preventing the occurrence of post-thrombotic syndrome. PTS happens in the event of deep vein thrombosis and can be a cause of increased swelling and continuous pain.

Choosing compression socks for DVT

Compression stockings come in various strength levels and the same knowledge should be used when choosing the socks. The choice will depend on whether the swelling is below the knee or above it. A doctor will thus recommend either you get knee-high or thigh-high pairs of compression socks.

It is recommended that you have your measurements taken properly, as these will help you compare with various brand charts as you pick the right fit. Other than the measurements, you will also need to pay attention to the tightness in the socks.

For DVT, health care professionals recommend pressure levels of between 30mmHg and 40 mmHg. That means that lower tightness levels of below 30mmHg may not be as effective.

Can I use compression sock for Lymphoedema?

Lymphoedema is a condition that leads to the swelling of body tissues as a result of an accumulation of lymphatic fluid. The swelling can be treated or greatly reduced by way of compression socks after therapy.

Getting the best out of the compression socks

To have the best outcome when using compression socks, it is advisable that you wear them before beginning any exerting movements or exercises in the morning. You should only have them off when going for a shower or bath.

Putting the socks on in the morning helps prevent any swelling from occurring, a scenario that would make it challenging to don the socks.

Wear the compression socks in the right manner and ensure there is no wrinkling or bunching. You are also advised to wear stockings throughout the day.

Take good care of them and replace after about four months of use.

Are there any side effects to be aware of?

Compression socks do not present any serious side effects when used in the right manner. However, because they are designed to provide levels of firmness on the legs, they can be too tight and thus cause more problems related to poor blood flow.

In case you realize the stockings are too tight, inform your healthcare provider. Some of the likely effects of a tight stocking will be:

  • Increased aching or pain in the leg(s)
  • A feeling of numbness (including in the toes)
  • If you notice paleness in your toes

Compression socks are also not advised for individuals with certain conditions like dermatitis, pulmonary edema, peripheral artery disease, and peripheral neuropathy. Consult a healthcare professional before using compression socks in case you have any of these conditions.

Choosing and Using Compression Socks

Choosing and Using Compression Socks

Compression socks will primarily help you get better blood circulation in your legs as you work for long hours while sitting or standing.

It can also be recommended by a health care professional to help in cases like deep vein thrombosis (DVT) or varicose veins. Other people like athletes may wear compression socks to help improve their performance.

Simply put, to get the best of the compression socks, choosing the correct type of socks and knowing how to use them is critical.

For most people, the first pair is likely to be a recommendation at a health facility, and thus choosing the correct fit may not be a problem. But if you are looking to buy them online or at a store, then there are considerations that one must take.

As such, choosing and using compression stockings is an important step in getting the best out of these socks.

Choosing compression socks

Compression stockings are designed to snuggly-fit on your leg and apply pressure that gently squeezes on the leg and helps blood and oxygen flow.

The compression socks have more pressure at the ankle and will graduate and lessen up the leg to avoid countering the intention of blood flow by being too tight at one point.

  • They come in different sizes and pressures. (read about it below)
  • Compression socks offer different pressure capacities
  • It is best to get advice from a professional before buying the first pair

Compression socks can be worn by anyone, but one needs to seek a doctor’s advice if they have certain medical conditions or skin infections

What are the different kinds of compression socks?

We have compression socks of different sizes, lengths and pressure strengths. The choice of a particular type will mostly depend on what part of the body it is to be worn and whether it has been recommended or not.

For the various lengths, you can get knee-high socks and thigh-high socks. There are also tights and footless socks (also called sleeves, as they have no foot).

When going for the socks, having the right measurements is paramount to avoid getting a very tight or small pair. It could be just as bad to get large ones that do not fit and thus end up not serving its purpose.

A healthy person will buy socks with the lowest pressure levels, while those advised to get there by a medical practitioner will choose a pressure level depending on the given advice.

In most cases, the specialist will pick one that fits your specific needs. Compression levels range from under 15mmHg to over 40mmHg, or from mild to strong compression.

Go for a mild compression when looking for socks that should give you comfort.

For DVT and other cases, go for stronger compression levels. If you have had surgery and need the socks, then go for anti-embolism socks.  In all these cases, find specialist help if it is your first time to buy the stockings.

Where do you buy compression socks?

As stated earlier, you can purchase compression sock from various places or outlets. Most people now find it easier to buy the socks online, but the first place you should go to is ideally a medical facility or store where advice and other key details can be factored into the choice of a given length or strength of socks.

You can also access compression socks over the counter at a drugs store or pharmaceutical company. Importantly, however, you need to find out additional information before buying from places like online or drugs store.

Such information includes whether that store, online supplier or company provides for measurements or whether it allows your medical insurance to pay for the costs. This bit is important as although some socks will cost as little as $10, others may set you back almost $100 for one pair.

Compression socks prices vary mainly as a result of factors such as company/brand, fabric quality, length, pressure strength, and purpose. Footless or toeless socks will not be priced the same as a custom-fit knee or thigh-high pair.

Expectedly, a custom-fit pair is slightly pricier as is a pair that is aimed at aiding a medical condition.

How do you wear compression socks?

The general agreement is that compression socks are beneficial and many users get the best out of them when they wear them all day.

However, research has shown that more than a quarter of the people using the stockings do not get the optimum benefit. And it boils down to two main reasons: these individuals were found to either have ended up with the wrong socks or that they did not wear the socks in the right manner.

Affected people either donned socks that did not fit or were thigh-high when the individual would have been more comfortable in knee-high socks. So, before you even know how to wear compression socks, the first thing is to ensure you get the right fit, length, and strength.

Wear your socks when you wake up and take them off when you go to bed. Take these steps when wearing your socks:

  • Take the sock and turn it inside out, but with one hand grabbing the big toe tip from inside.
  • Start wearing the sock by sliding your foot into the sock and pulling it up to your heel and then your leg
  • Slide the sock gently up your leg, always ensuring that you do not stretch or wrinkle it
  • As you slide it up your leg, avoid pulling as this will likely rip the sock or affect its fit. The pull should see you wear the sock smoothly to the end.

Once you are done, smooth it out so that it fits nicely on the leg without any creases or bunching.

Taking off your compression socks

Normally, you would take off the socks when ready for a bath or shower or when going off to bed. The easiest way to take them off is to simply fold them down starting at the top, with the inside folding out up to the ankle. At this point, gently push the sock off the ankle and then slide it off the foot.


You may find it challenging to slide the sock up your leg, or down when you want to remove them. This, however, can be helped by having rubber gloves with you. They help with the hand-sock friction, enabling you to easily wear or remove the socks.

You can also get a “stocking donner,” a special device designed to help people wear their compression socks easily, especially in cases where the individual finds it challenging to grasp the stocking and pull it up their leg.

Note that you can use compression socks as normal, that is, with your everyday footwear like shoes and sandals.

Things to avoid

  • Pulling the stockings too rapidly and too long beyond its fit
  • Folding the top once you are done wearing the socks- it will make them too tight and counter desired effect. The danger is when this leads to blood circulation problems.

Once you can wear and remove your compression socks correctly, the next step is to know how to care for them.