Why and How to Use Compression Socks
Wearing compression socks, or stockings, is a simple and effective way to treat or prevent various blood circulation problems in the legs. Read on to find out how compression socks work and how to use them properly for maximum benefit.
How compression socks work
Compression socks work by creating pressure on the legs, starting from maximum compression at the ankles and gradually decreasing toward the top of the garment.
This graduated compression helps move blood toward the heart, and in doing so, improves blood circulation in the legs, reduces swelling, and lowers the risk of blood clots.
Who should wear compression socks?
A number of health problems can justify the use of compression socks, among them venous insufficiency, swelling in the legs, varicose veins, and leg ulcers. Compression socks are also used to prevent circulation problems, for example during pregnancy.
Medical-grade graduated compression socks come in various levels of compression, measured in millimeters of mercury (mm Hg). The rating should be high enough to help blood circulate in the veins, but not too high that the socks risk cutting off circulation.
Your doctor will determine which level of compression you need based on your health condition. For medical-grade stockings, compression levels usually range from 20–30 mm Hg up to 50–60 mm Hg.
You will also find compression or support garments in pharmacies that offer light compression. Their compression level is often not high enough to treat blood circulation problems. Rather, they are used to prevent fatigue or leg swelling, for example by people who stand for long hours on the job or who take long flights or car trips.
Types of compression socks
There is a wide range of compression garments available for men and women in a variety of colours and fabrics: everyday socks, sports socks, thigh-highs, tights, etc.
Tips for using compression socks
- Put them on as soon as you get up in the morning.
- Wear non-slip gloves or use a stocking donning device to help you get them on.
- Remove any rings and take care not to snag the socks with your fingernails when putting them on.
- Make sure there are no wrinkles in the socks once you get them on.
- Do not add one sock over the other (layers) to increase compression.
- Do not use fabric softeners when washing compression socks, as it will damage the elastic fibres. Wash on delicate cycle and hang to dry.
Remember, the best compression socks are those you actually wear! If you have trouble putting on the socks, or find them uncomfortable to wear, talk to your pharmacy team.
The information contained herein is provided for informational purposes only and is not intended to provide complete information on the subject matter or to replace the advice of a health professional. This information does not constitute medical consultation, diagnosis or opinion and should not be interpreted as such. Please consult your health care provider if you have any questions about your health, medications or treatment.