Compression Socks: What Are They and Who Needs Them?

Compression Socks | Dundas University Health Clinic

Compression Socks – Overview

Socks keep our feet warm and dry; however, there are specialised socks designed to improve and prevent many health conditions. Compression socks – or compression stockings  – are specialised tight-fitting socks that apply gentle pressure to the legs and ankles. The compression helps move the blood upwards. This prevents blood from pooling in your leg veins, which can lead to problems like blood clots. Compression socks help improve blood flow from the legs to the heart. Compression socks for swelling are beneficial as they have been shown to help reduce swelling.

Compression socks for foot pain are also recommended in case of pain in the legs and ankles. As they apply pressure to the legs, they help reduce the extra fluid in the legs, reduce inflammation, and finally improve blood flow through the veins to the heart.

Compression Socks Benefits

Compression socks or compression stockings can benefit various conditions. They can help to…

  • Boost circulation in the legs
  • Decrease swelling in the legs and ankles
  • Improve lymphatic drainage
  • Manage orthostatic hypotension, or low blood pressure when you stand up after a period of sitting down
  • Prevent blood from pooling in the leg veins
  • Prevent deep vein thrombosis in the legs
  • Prevent venous ulcers
  • Reduce pain related to varicose veins
  • Reverse venous hypertension

Compression socks are also beneficial to…

Athletes – Sometimes athletes wear compression socks on their arms or hands while working out, practising or during competition. This is because compression socks are believed to improve blood flow and oxygen delivery. Compression wraps are also worn to help recover quicker after a workout.

The wheelchair-bound – Compression socks help improve blood flow and reduce swelling in the legs of those who are confined to a wheelchair.

Pregnant women – Compression socks for swelling can help reduce the swelling in the legs, feet and ankles of pregnant women. It is recommended that they be worn in the morning itself as a preventative measure, rather than after the swelling develops.

Airplane passengers or crew – Wearing compression socks on long or frequent air flights can help increase circulation and reduce the risk of developing deep vein thrombosis or blood clots.

People on their feet all day at work – Compression socks for foot pain and compression socks for swelling are beneficial to those who are on their feet all day. Compression socks can help reduce the tiredness, pain and swelling as they increase blood and oxygen flow in the legs and feet.

Compression Socks Types

Compression socks and compression stockings generally fall into three categories of compression socks types:

  • Graduated compression socks – These are tightest around the ankle. The pressure gradually decreases up the leg.
  • Anti-embolism stockings – These medical compression socks help prevent blood clots in patients who aren’t mobile, such as those who are confined to bed after surgery.
  • Non-medical support socks – These apply light, uniform pressure all through. These can be bought at the local pharmacy or online.

Compression socks types are available in different lengths, such as knee-high and thigh-high. They are also available in different compression levels. Some compression socks need a prescription and a fitting by a professional. Do contact your healthcare provider for guidance on compression socks types and selecting and wearing the right socks according to your health requirements, including compression socks for foot pain.

Tips ForWearing Compression Socks

It is important to follow the provider’s instructions for wearing the compression socks. You will need to wear the compression socks depending upon your health needs and your response to compression therapy.

It is recommended that you put on compression socks first thing in the morning when leg swelling is lower. Bathing or showering the night before is also suggested, so you can put on the compression socks immediately after waking up.

As some compression socks can be difficult to put on, it can help to use a pair of textured rubber gloves while donning them. Other ways to make wearing compression socks easier is a gadget called a stocking donner, or taking the help of a family member or caregiver to don them. Skin adhesive products also help to keep the socks in place.

It is recommended to wear compression socks all day long if you are going to be constantly sitting or on your feet. Compression socks should be kept clean and replaced as required. Compression socks are not supposed to cause discomfort; if they do, do inform your health provider.

Health Conditions That Compression Socks Help

Medical compression socks can help a range of conditions, such as…

Venous disorders – When the valves in the veins don’t function properly, it becomes harder for the blood to flow back to the heart. This can lead to various venous disorders like –

Varicose veins – These are twisted, swollen veins near the skin’s surface. Varicose veins can cause itching along with a burning, aching or heavy feeling in the legs.

Chronic venous insufficiency –  This condition can develop in those who have varicose veins. Chronic venous insufficiency occurs when the leg veins become damaged. Pain, swelling, cramping, skin changes, and leg ulcers are some of the symptoms of chronic venous insufficiency.

Post – thrombotic syndrome – Post-thrombotic syndrome is a form of chronic venous insufficiency. It is caused by deep vein thrombosis (DVT). DVT occurs when a blood clot forms in a deep leg vein. This type of clot can cause scarring that damages the vein. DVT can be life-threatening as, if it is left untreated, the clot can break free and get lodged in the blood vessels of the lung. Called pulmonary embolism, this can be fatal.

Lymphedema – The swelling due to accumulation of lymph fluid in the body’s soft tissues is called lymphedema. This can occur due to infection, cancer or cancer treatment, and lymph system developmental problems.


Medical compression socks have an important role to play in improving and preventing many health conditions. If you are concerned about the blood flow in your legs, do speak to your care provider. After evaluating your circulation, you could be referred to a vascular specialist if more specialised treatment is needed.