Are Compression Socks Safe?

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

Blood in our veins has to constantly fight against gravity to flow back to the heart, sometimes there are factors that can impede that flow such as lack of circulation, weight issues, weak veins in the back of your legs etc. An accumulation of lymph fluid is what causes swelling in your lower limbs. Pair sluggishly moving blood with the accumulation of lymph fluid and you have the recipe for tired, swollen and heavy legs with an increased risk of varicose veins and in more severe cases; DVT Deep Vein Thrombosis.

What Do Compression Socks Do?

Compression socks are an ultra-strong elasticated sock, comes in knee, thigh or full length from the waist. Whilst not the most aesthetically fashionable kind of sock, they make it simpler for the blood to move unhindered by any of these factors through your system. Compression socks work by squeezing your leg tissues and the walls of the veins- this is to help the blood flow more freely back up your body and it also doesn’t allow for the accumulation of lymph fluid in your lower legs.

How Do Compression Socks Work?

The amount of compression you need for different complaints varies, our guidelines are simply just that- a guide. Always confirm and get the opinion of a medical professional before buying compression products.

Compression Products

Compression is measured in mmHg, millimeters of Mercury and can range from 8-15mmHg all the way through to 30-40mmHg. The mmHg is a guide on how ‘tight’ the sock is at full extension.

8mmHg and 20mmHg provide very light compression and can be worn by everyone who feels they might benefit from a bit of compression (eg. Athletes). However, compression above 20mmHg should only be prescribed and monitored by a doctor.

Who Should Wear Compression Socks?

Wear Compression Socks

Pregnant Women

With swollen ankles and feet being at the heart of most pregnant women’s complaints, due to an increase in blood volume in the body, wearing compression socks during pregnancy can prevent blood from pooling in the lower extremities and therefore can help to keep the heart-rate of mother and child steady. As a hugely appreciated bonus- it keeps swelling to a minimum and helps to relieve the dull, achy feeling experienced in the legs towards the latter part of a pregnancy. They can also be of benefit after birth so keep wearing them for a few weeks after.

How Much Compression Do You Need:

Pregnancy usually requires mild compression so anything between 8mmHg up to 20mmHg.

Wearing Compression Socks During Pregnancy

People at Risk of DVT

Lifestyle factors, genetics, immobility, extensive traveling by air, obesity and smoking are some of the factors that can lead to blood which is thicker and more prone to clotting leading to DVT. Graduated compression socks can be of great benefit in the case of preventing DVT. It is tight around the ankle, gradually becoming less tight the further up the sock goes preventing the blood from pooling in your lower legs.

How Much Compression Do You Need:

Naturally, if you suspect you might be at risk of developing DVT or have any of its symptoms, the first port of call should always be your doctor or a qualified medical professional. 15mmHg to 20mmHg is a good compression grade for the prevention of and managing mild DVT discomfort.

Elderly Person Suffers From Venous Insufficiency

Elderly People

As people get older, the wall structure of the venous system can break down and no longer function as well as they should, to transport blood up and down the circulatory system. Elderly people, especially those who not as mobile as they once were can benefit from wearing compression hose to relieve tired, achy legs and to prevent swelling.

How Much Compression Do You Need:

Unless the elderly person suffers from venous insufficiency, a mild compression between 8mmHg and 15mmHg will do the trick in providing a measure of relief.

Performance Of Athletes Or Helps Them To Recover From Injuries Faster


Whilst there is no definite proof that wearing compression socks improves the performance of athletes or helps them to recover from injuries faster, they do provide a measure of relief from muscle fatigue and had been shown to prevent swelling after distance running.

How Much Compression Do You Need:

Anything higher than 8mmHg should not be considered without permission from a medical professional and could possibly negatively impact performance.

People with Varicose Veins

People with Varicose Veins

Our veins have a one-way valve that prevents blood from traveling back down them. Sometimes, the valve gets weak or doesn’t work as well as it should and it allows blood to run downward and to pool in the lower legs. This causes the veins to become misshapen and bulge with undistributed blood. These unsightly and often painful veins plague women mainly and are called Varicose veins. Multiple factors lead to them being formed such as standing for long hours, pregnancy, menopause, obesity and genetics. Compression stockings are often the first remedy a doctor will prescribe as it is far less invasive than all the other treatment options.

How Much Compression Do You Need:

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

Economy Class Syndrome

Frequent Flyers

Economy Class Syndrome is a name given to a type of deep vein thrombosis that affects people who fly frequently for extended lengths of time. Sitting cramped in a tiny seat, often even more restricted by the ‘fasten seat belt’ sign and carts blocking the aisle means that circulation cannot function at an optimum. Couple that with a decreased level of oxygen in the blood and you have all the fixings of some pretty nasty blood clot formations in your legs- more specifically; your calves.

How Much Compression Do You Need:

If you’re going to be spending anything over 4 hours being immobile, a rate of 20mmHg will give your legs enough of a squeeze to keep your blood circulating healthily. Walking around, stretches and lunges in the aisle are also necessary to keep your legs spider-vein free and your veins clot-free.

Is There Any Reason Why You Should Not Wear Compression Socks:

If you suffer from any of the following illnesses, you should not be considering compression socks at all:

  1. People with a decreased ability to feel sensations against the skin such as Peripheral Neuropathy

  2. People with Peripheral Artery Disease

  3. People with skin infections and open wounds

  4. Massive leg swelling

  5. People with Congestive Heart Failure.

How to Get Measured for Compression Socks:

Measured For Compression Socks

For knee socks:

  • Sit in a chair with your legs bent at a 90-degree angle

  • Use a tape measure and measure the narrowest part of your ankle

  • Now find the widest part of your calf and measure its’ circumference

  • Now from the sole of the foot upward, measure the length of your calf

compression socks measurement

For thigh socks:

  • Sit in a chair with your legs bent at a 90-degree angle

  • Use a tape measure and measure the narrowest part of your ankle

  • Now find the widest part of your calf and measure its’ circumference

  • Now from the sole of the foot upward, measure the length of your calf

  • Measure the widest part of your thigh right under the buttocks

  • Stand up and measure from the floor to the bottom of your buttocks

These measurements will help you get a head start when making your first compression socks purchase online. Reputable online retailers will have a chart against which you can compare your own measurements and this will help you to find the perfect sock with the perfect amount of compression for your needs.

How Long Should You Wear Compression Socks

This is really dependent on what you want to wear the socks for in the first place. If it is to manage swollen legs, varicose veins or you’re pregnant; wear them the entire day and remove them when you’re home and can relax with your feet up. Never go to sleep with the socks on and never wear them for more than 16 hours per day.

Dependent On What You Want To Wear The Socks

How to Get the Socks On:

This seems like a silly question but anyone who’s worn compression socks before will tell you just how much of a chore this can be. The higher the mmHg rate of compression, the harder it is to get the sock on.

  • Keep them near your bedside because they should be the first thing you put on before you get out of bed (your legs will be at their least swollen)

  • Sit in a chair with a back so you can leverage yourself against the chair when pulling up the socks

  • Put one hand inside the sock to grab the toe and turn it almost inside out

  • Start at the toe and gently but firmly roll the sock up avoiding any wrinkling/bunching up of the material especially behind the knees and around the ankles

    • Wearing rubber gloves can help with gripping the socks- this is handy for higher grade compression socks

    • Talcum powder or cornflour sprinkled on your legs help the socks to slide on

    • Super high-grade compressions require a special device called a ‘stocking butler’ that can help you get the sock on. Try before you buy, it’s fairly tricky to use

Top tip:Always buy an additional pair so you’ll have a clean pair to get into when the one is being washed- they tend to take a while to air dry.

Compression Sock Do’s:

  • Do wash them every day- not just for hygiene but because washing them returns it to the original shape and extends its usability.

  • Wash it in a mesh bag as you would delicate underwear- the elastic fibers damage with vigorous washing

  • Replace them every 3 to 6 months

Compression Sock Dont’s:

  • Don’t roll the socks to pull them on or take them off, a pinch/pull motion is better as there is less risk of cutting off your circulation

  • Wear them at night unless your doctor tells you to, gravity does its’ work better when you’re lying down anyway

  • Use bleach on them

  • Try any self alteration, this is a highly technical product with graduated compression, any alteration could have an adverse effect on your condition.

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