Are compression stockings safe?

Are compression stockings safe?

Let's start with the question of why we might need to wear compression socks?

The blood in our veins must constantly fight gravity to flow back to the heart, and sometimes there are factors that hinder blood flow, such as lack of circulation, weight issues, weak veins in the back of the legs, etc. The accumulation of lymph fluid is what causes swelling in the lower extremities. Pair slow-flowing blood with a buildup of lymph fluid and you have the recipe for tired, swollen and heavier legs, an increased risk of varicose veins, and in more severe cases; DVT Deep Vein Thrombosis.

What do compression socks do?

Compression stockings are extra-stretch stockings that go the full length of the knee, thigh, or waist. While not the prettiest and most stylish socks, they make it easier for blood to flow through your system unhindered by any of these factors. Compression stockings work by squeezing your leg tissue and the walls of your veins—this is to help blood flow back into your body more freely without allowing lymph fluid to build up in your calves.

How do compression socks work?

The amount of compression required varies from complaint to complaint, and our guide is just a guide. Always confirm and seek the advice of a medical professional before purchasing compressed products.

Compression is measured in millimeters of mercury (mmHg) and ranges from 8-15 mmHg all the way up to 30-40 mmHg. mmHg is a guideline on how "tight" a sock is when fully extended.

8mmHg and 20mmHg provide very light compression and can be worn by anyone who thinks they might benefit from compression, such as athletes. However, pressures above 20 mmHg can only be prescribed and monitored by a doctor.

Who should wear compression socks?

pregnant woman

Since swelling of the ankles and feet is the core complaint of most pregnant women, wearing compression stockings during pregnancy can help keep the heart rate stable for both mother and child by preventing blood from building up in the lower extremities due to the increased blood volume in the body. As a very welcome bonus - it keeps swelling to a minimum and helps relieve dull, sore legs later in pregnancy. They can also benefit after birth, so keep wearing them for a few weeks.

How much compression do you need:

Pregnancy usually requires light pressure, so the pressure is between 8mmHg and 20mmHg.

people at risk for DVT

Lifestyle factors, genetics, immobility, heavy air travel, obesity, and smoking are some of the factors that cause the blood to thicken and clot more easily, leading to DVT. In the case of DVT prevention, graduated compression stockings can be of great benefit. It's tight around the ankle and gets tighter as the sock goes up, preventing blood from pooling on the calf.

How much compression do you need:

Of course, your first stop should always be your doctor or a qualified medical professional if you suspect that you may be at risk for deep vein thrombosis or have any symptoms. 15mmHg to 20mmHg is a good compression level for the prevention and control of mild DVT discomfort.


As people age, the wall structure of the venous system can break down and no longer function as it should to carry blood up and down the circulatory system. Older adults, especially those with limited mobility, can wear compression hoses to relieve tired, sore legs and prevent swelling.

How much compression do you need:

Unless the elderly suffer from venous insufficiency, mild pressure between 8 mmHg and 15 mmHg will provide some relief.


While there's no clear evidence that wearing compression socks improves athletes' performance or helps them recover from injuries faster, they do relieve muscle fatigue and have been shown to prevent swelling after long runs.

How much compression do you need:

Any value above 8mmHg should not be considered without the permission of a medical professional and may negatively affect performance.

people with varicose veins

Our veins have a one-way valve that prevents blood from flowing back into the vein. Sometimes the valve becomes weak or doesn't work properly, which allows blood to flow down and collect in the lower leg. This can cause venous malformations and bulges due to uneven blood flow. These unsightly and often painful veins primarily afflict women and are known as varicose veins. A variety of factors cause them to form, such as prolonged standing, pregnancy, menopause, obesity, and genetics. Compression stockings are usually the first remedy a doctor prescribes because it is much less invasive than all other treatment options.

How much compression do you need:

For mild cases and not so many bulging veins, you can wear anything from 15mmHg to 20mmHg, if you have a severe condition, your doctor will prescribe a higher compression rate.

frequent flyer

Economy class syndrome is the name for a deep vein thrombosis that affects people who fly regularly for long periods of time. Sitting in cramped seats is often more constrained by "fasten your seatbelt" signs, and a trolley blocking the aisle means the cycle isn't optimal. Combine that with the reduced oxygen levels in your blood, and you've got some pretty nasty blood clots forming in your legs -- more specifically; your calves.

How much compression do you need:

If you're going to be immobile for more than 4 hours, the 20mmHg speed will give your legs enough squeezing force to keep your blood circulation healthy. Walking around, stretching and lunging in the aisle is also necessary to keep your legs free of spider veins and blood clots.

Here are some reasons why you shouldn't wear compression socks:

Compression stockings should not be considered at all if you have any of the following conditions:

  • People with reduced skin sensory ability, such as peripheral neuropathy
  • patients with peripheral arterial disease
  • People with skin infections and open wounds
  • Extensive swelling of the leg

People with congestive heart failure.

How to measure compression stockings:

For knee socks:

  • Sit in a chair with your legs bent at a 90-degree angle
  • Use a tape measure to measure the narrowest part of your ankle
  • Now find the widest part of your calf and measure its circumference
  • Now measure the length of the calf from the sole of the foot up

For thigh socks:

  • Sit in a chair with your legs bent at a 90-degree angle
  • Use a tape measure to measure the narrowest part of your ankle
  • Now find the widest part of your calf and measure its circumference
  • Now measure the length of the calf from the sole of the foot up
  • Measure the widest part of the thigh below the hip
  • Stand up and measure the distance from the floor to the bottom of your hips

These measurements will help you get a head start when shopping for compression socks online for the first time. Reputable online retailers will provide a chart against which you can compare your measurements, which will help you find the perfect socks for the perfect compression you need.

How long should you wear compression socks

It really depends on what you're putting the socks on in the first place. If it's for swollen legs, varicose veins, or pregnancy; wear them all day, remove them when you get home, and lift your feet to relax. Never sleep with socks on, and don't wear socks for more than 16 hours a day.

Depends on what socks you want to wear

How to put on socks:

It may seem like a silly question, but anyone who's ever worn compression socks will tell you what a hassle it can be. The higher the compression rate in mmHg, the harder it is to wear socks.

  • keep them by the bed as they should be your first clothes before you get up (your legs will at least be swollen)
  • Sit on a chair with a back so you can lean back on the chair when you pull up your socks
  • Put one hand inside the sock, grab the toes and turn them almost inside out
  • Starting at the toes, gently but firmly roll the sock up to avoid wrinkling/puckering of the material, especially behind the knees and around the ankles
  • Wearing rubber gloves can help grip the socks - this is handy for higher grade compression socks
  • Talc or cornmeal sprinkled on the legs helps the socks slide
  • Ultra-advanced compression requires a special device called a "sock butler," which helps you put your socks on. Try before you buy, it's pretty tricky to use

Top tip: always buy an extra pair so you'll have a clean pair to wear while you wash - they tend to take a while to air dry.

Compression socks can:

Wash them daily - not only for hygiene, but also because washing them restores it to its original shape and expands its usability.

  • Wash in a mesh bag like delicate underwear - washing too hard can damage the spandex
  • Replace every 3 to 6 months
  • Compression stockings cannot:
  • Don't roll socks to put them on or off, pinching/pulling is better as there is less risk of breaking the loop
  • Wear them at night unless your doctor tells you to, anyway gravity works better when you lie down
  • use bleach on them

Try any self-modification, this is a high-tech product with progressive compression, and any modification can have a detrimental effect on your condition.

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