WHMC Blog

What are Compression Stockings?

Improve Blood Circulation With Compression Therapy

Compression socks or stockings are snug-fitting, stretchable socks that are specially designed to gently squeeze the legs for the improvement of blood flow. They work by applying pressure to the leg tissues and wall of the veins to help blood in the veins return to the heart. Compression stockings also improve the flow of your lymph or the fluid that bathes the cell, reducing tissue swelling in the legs.

Medical conditions that can benefit from compression therapy:

  • Deep vein thrombosis (DVT) or blood clots in the lower legs
  • Varicose or spider veins
  • Lymphedema or edema
  • Poor circulation from sitting for long periods
  • Pregnancy-related swelling and vein problems

While these stockings are usually prescribed to people with certain leg problems or at risk of blood clots, many individuals who are constantly on their feet such as nurses and athletes also find comfort in wearing compression socks.

Wearing Compression Stockings

If your doctor or health care provider has prescribed you to wear compression stockings, there is a possibility that you may need to wear them for several years, or in some cases, for the rest of your life. Compression stockings come in different sizes and strengths of compression. Your doctor or nurse may measure your leg to see the size and compression level that is most suitable for you.

The standard compression levels are as follow:

  • 8-15 mmHg (Mild support)
  • 15-20 mmHg (Medium support)
  • 20-30 mmHg (Firm compression)
  • 30-40 mmHg (Extra firm compression)

At first, you may find it difficult to wear your compression stockings since they are tighter than the traditional socks. You may find it easier to slip them on first thing in the morning so your legs won’t be as swollen as they might be later in the day. You may also sprinkle some talcum powder or cornstarch on your legs to help the stockings slide on easier.

Choosing the Right Compression Stockings

Compression stockings come in a wide array of design and colors. The most traditional that you may find are those in sock-like form. However, there are also sleeves that are just the tube part, without the foot as well as thigh-highs and even tights. In selecting the right compression stocking, it is important that you follow what your doctor has prescribed in terms of size and compression level. The stockings should feel snug on your legs, but not painfully tight, as having them too tight can cause more problems in your blood flow.

If you know that you are at risk of DVT or have been experiencing abnormal swelling in your legs, don’t try to self-medicate with compression stockings. It is still best to see your doctor or health care provider so you would be guided accordingly.

This article contains general information about medical conditions and treatments. The information is not advice and should not be treated as such. The information is not intended to replace the advice or diagnosis of a physician. If you have any specific questions about any medical matter you should consult your doctor or other professional healthcare providers.