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What do compression socks do?


Compression socks and stockings are a mechanical form of treatment (meaning they are physically applied to the body) and are designed to help reduce swelling in the feet, ankles, calves, and legs. Swelling can be painful but also lead to blood clots which can be more problematic than just uncomfortable.

How do they work?

They work by applying graduated pressure from the feet upwards to help increase blood flow out of the legs and back towards the heart. This means the socks are tighter in the feet and get less tight as you go up the leg. Because of this, when you are looking at compression socks, you may notice that the “strength” is listed as a range (for example 15-20 mmHg or 20-30 mmHg).

In addition to different compression strengths, these socks and stockings can come in different heights. Moderate support can be achieved with a knee-high sock that helps limit lower leg swelling due to an increased amount of fluid. For patients that may require greater support, options are available for thigh-high and waist-high compression stockings. These “taller” styles also help with leg swelling. Additionally, they aid in the reduction of instances of orthostatic hypotension, or dizziness upon standing. All styles and compression strengths are available without a prescription, but most patients use the higher compression items on the recommendation of a doctor.  

Why are compression socks worn?

Some studies indicate that wearing compression socks during exercise (such as running, soccer, and cycling) decreased the likelihood of muscle fatigue and muscle soreness following a workout, so compression socks are being seen more frequently in athletes. People who stand all day for their job also use compression socks to decrease muscle fatigue. Travelers often wear these socks for long plane flights or long sedentary trips by car or train to control swelling.

Compression socks are becoming more popular outside of the medical field and many new manufacturers are creating sleek and fashionable products. At Sona Pharmacy + Clinic, we carry a variety of manufacturers that can meet your medical needs and personal taste. For example, we can get a stocking that looks like a sheer pair of pantyhose and comes in a variety of skin tones, so you won’t feel compelled to wear them under pants where no one can see them. In the sock-type garments, we carry a variety of patterns and colors so you don’t have to compromise your sock-style for comfort.

Due to the nature of their design, many people struggle with the best way to put on compression socks. Sockwell, which is one of the brands of colorful socks we stock at our store, has a great video demonstrating a helpful technique.

For people with decreased flexibility, there are several medical devices, called a "stocking donner", that can be used to aid in putting compression socks on as well. These devices allow you to “load” the sock onto the device and then pull them on using extended handles.  Many elderly or individuals recovering from surgeries benefit from these donning devices.

As always, please ask your Sona Pharmacist if you want to know more about compression socks and how to find a good fit!


Open Access J Sports Med. 2020 Jan 22;11:29-42. doi: 10.2147/OAJSM.S198809. eCollection 2020.


Originally posted by Sona Pharmacy