Compression socks: 14 situations where they are useful

Compression Socks On Multiple Legs - Various Colors and Styles - Main Image For Blog

Overview

Regular wearing of compression socks does not necessarily mean that the user is already suffering from the following:

Besides medical use, many people can wear them to prevent venous disease. They can also wear them for air travel on long flights, running or other sports, pregnancy, etc.

To clarify this misunderstood aspect of compression stockings, we answer here this question:

Who should wear them? And why?

Not only that, but we also discuss specific situations where you should not wear compression hosiery.

 

Who should wear compression socks?

1. Runners

 

Men Runner Running With Compression Socks Near Water

Compression socks for running are becoming popular among runners and other athletes.

How are compression socks for running different from regular socks?

Some popular styles of running compression socks look identical to regular running socks. But, their difference lies in their graduated compression fabric of 15 20 mmHg or 20 30 mmHg.

Compression Socks For Running With Stripes - Black- Close Look

The technology used in these runner compression socks stimulates the ankles and calves muscles. As a result, it will help promote better blood circulation.

Benefits of running with compression stockings

Running with compression stockings offers the following benefits:

    • Better venous return, so more athletic performance
    • Fewer legs cramps
    • The runner can enjoy a better recovery

2. People traveling on long flights

 

Passengers Sitting in a Plane - Showing From Rear To Front

Have you ever had your ankle and the rest of your leg swollen while traveling on long flights?

Don't worry; you're not the only one experiencing this!

Why wear traveling compression socks on long flights?

Usually, people with venous insufficiency or at risk of having one wear compression socks when traveling.

Traveling Compression Socks For Flying - Brown - Full View

These compression socks for travel have compression levels of 15 20 mmHg or 20 30 mmHg.

Wearing compression socks for flying is helpful for the following two reasons:

    • To avoid having heavy, swollen, or numb legs
    • For severe cases: to prevent pulmonary embolism or deep vein thrombosis (DVT). In most cases, a blood clot in the legs can cause a deep venous thrombosis

3. Pregnant women with venous insufficiency

 

Pregnant Women Holding Her Belly - Image Zoomed On Belly

Pregnant women with symptoms of venous insufficiency should wear compression socks during pregnancy.

This poor blood circulation manifests itself as follows:

    • Heavy legs
    • Varicose veins: those blue spots that appear on the legs
    • Edema (swelling) in the legs
    • Achy legs

Why wear compression socks in pregnancy?

Medical pregnancy compression socks in thigh high or maternity pantyhose will help the blood to go up the legs better.

Pregnancy Compression Socks - Pantyhose Style - Beige - Lower Body

Thus, fatigue, leg pain, or edema will be less present when pregnant women wear them daily.

4. Nurses

 

Image Showing Nurse Standing and Smiling in Blue Uniform - Upper Body

Compression socks are trendy among nurses and other healthcare professionals.

Why?

A nurse can have a mild or chronic venous insufficiency while standing all the time and for long hours.

The reason is that: the body is in a vertical position for a long time every day. So, the leg blood will permanently fight gravity to go up to the heart.

As a result, the venous wall and venous valve of a nurse's leg veins can wear out faster.

How are nursing compression socks beneficial for nurses?

The nurse can feel the legs less heavy and less painful by putting on nursing compression socks to prevent or treat venous insufficiency.

Nursing Compression Socks - Knee High - Dark Blue - With Packaging - Illustration

Besides, compression socks for nurses slow the progression of venous diseases such as:

    • Varicose veins
    • Superficial phlebitis

5. Plus size women or men

Obesity and overweight are among the risk factors that may cause venous insufficiency.

Thus, due to a sedentary lifestyle and irregular blood pressure, the veins in the legs of obese people dilate and malfunction.

How can compression socks for plus size help overweight people?

If worn daily, compression socks for plus size help dilated veins to return blood to the heart better.

Wide Calf Compression Socks For Plus Size - Beige - Illustration

Thus, blood circulation becomes more active. Plus, the blood stagnates less in the body's lower limbs.

To accommodate plus size people, some wide calf compression socks, such as Circutrend by Doctor Brace, come in larger sizes: XL, 2XL, 3XL, or 4XL.

Sometimes, when looking for plus size compression socks, users may have to go for a custom made compression stocking. This will happen when the pre-measured sizing chart is inconsistent with their measurements.

6. People with diabetes

Among other things, diabetes can cause foot or toe problems, including the following:

    • Ulcers
    • Eczema or itchy legs
    • Open sores
    • Peripheral edema: swelling in foot, ankle, and leg
    • Neuropathy

So, to prevent all these problems, diabetic persons must take care of their feet and toes.

In particular, if required, they must wear the following:

    • Orthotic shoes with insoles or shoe inserts
    • Orthopedic slippers
    • Diabetic socks (also called neuropathy socks)

Additionally, people with diabetes should always see a foot care specialist, such as a podiatrist, for healthier feet.

How can diabetic socks benefit people with diabetes?

Compression socks for diabetes improve blood circulation in the feet and legs. They also help deflate swollen foot, ankle, and leg.

Diabetic Compression Socks For Neuropathy - Black With Stripes - Full View

Also, being at greater risk of having deep vein thrombosis (DVT), wearing diabetes socks may reduce this risk.

7. After surgery, for some people

Some surgeons may prescribe compression socks after surgery for certain patients or surgeries, such as:

    • Leg or knee surgery
    • Hip surgery
    • Abdominoplasty

The patient should wear these compression socks after surgery and during postoperative recovery.

Compression Socks For After Surgery - Beige With Charcoal Background

Why wear compression after surgery?

Wearing compression socks after abdominal or knee surgery can provide several benefits, including:

    • More active blood circulation, especially since the operated patient may have a sedentary life for several weeks
    • Better blood flow will allow faster healing
    • Medical compression socks will help deflate edema. Fluid accumulation after the operation may cause this swelling
    • The risk of having pulmonary embolism or deep vein thrombosis (blood clots) becomes more present after general anesthesia. So compression socks will help reduce this risk of DVT during and after surgery

8. Swollen ankles and legs

 

Swollen Ankle - Leg and Foot - Illustration With Lower Leg

While working during the day, numb or swollen legs can seem harmless as long as it doesn't hurt.

However, you should know that numbness and swelling in the feet, ankles, or calves; are considered early warning signs of chronic venous insufficiency (CVI).

So, even if no leg pain is felt, neither varicose veins nor spider veins appear on the calf or thigh; having swollen legs means you may have venous insufficiency.

How to treat a swollen leg?

If your leg swells during the day and deflates at night during sleep, put on compression stockings when you get out of bed. This will help reduce swelling during the day.

9. Heavy legs feeling

Are you experiencing a heavy leg feeling after prolonged sitting or standing?

In that case, this is again a warning sign that venous insufficiency is forming in your legs.

You may need to wear support stockings for the calves or thighs to relieve the heaviness in the legs.

10. Legs cramps

People with recurrent leg cramps can use compression stockings.

These socks will massage the calf muscles, help to oxygenate them better, and relax them.

Regular use of compression hosiery will prevent legs cramps. It is especially true when playing a sport or other physical activity.

11. Spider veins

 

Two Legs With Spider Veins At The Rear of The Calf

Also called varicosities, spider veins are skinny blue or red spots. They are often as large as a thread and can appear anywhere on the legs.

Do not worry! A spider vein is neither dangerous nor painful. But, it is a sure sign that your calf or thigh suffers from poor blood circulation.

How to get rid of spider veins?

The easiest way to stop spider veins in the legs is to wear knee-high or thigh-high support stockings.

Compression Stockings For Spider Veins  - Over The Knee - Black With Packaging

Indeed, these socks will not remove existing ones. Instead, they will prevent them from reproducing or turning into varicose veins.

For your information, a patient must undergo sclerotherapy to eliminate already-formed spider veins.

12. Varicose veins

 

Legs With Varicose Veins At Calf - Image Showing The Back Of The Body

Varicose veins on the legs are blue spots that are usually larger and more visible than spider veins.

In fact, a varicose vein on the leg is a superficial vein on the skin's surface. The only difference with a normal vein is that it is filled with stagnant blood.

This blood is there because the wall or valve of the vein affected by the varicose vein is not working well. Thus, the blood remains accumulated there instead of returning to the heart.

As the amount of blood increases in the veins, they become more dilated and larger. Also, the blue spot on the leg becomes even more noticeable.

Do varicose veins compression stockings work?

You should know that medical-grade compression socks for varicose veins will help the veins return the blood to the heart.

Varicose Veins Compression Stockings - Black With Charcoal Background - Illustration

Wearing varicose veins compression stockings will allow you to:

  1. Prevent blood from getting stuck in other veins
  2. Slow the progression of varicose veins in the legs

How to get rid of varicose veins?

To get rid of existing varicose veins in the legs, you must also undergo sclerotherapy or laser treatment to make them disappear.

13. Phlebitis

 

Leg With Phlebitis in The Calves - Image Showing Back Of Lower Limbs

Superficial phlebitis is a venous disease caused by a blood clot obstructing one or more veins on the skin's surface.

The symptoms of this phlebitis, also called superficial thrombophlebitis, are:

    • Pain in the affected leg
    • The skin becomes red and irritated
    • Leg edema

How to treat superficial phlebitis?

If you suffer from superficial phlebitis, consult your doctor for the best treatment.

Typical treatment for phlebitis involves:

    • Elevating the legs
    • Applying warm compresses
    • And wearing compression hosiery to allow fluid circulation

The doctor may prescribe medications to dissolve the blood clot and anti-inflammatories if needed.

14. DVT

 

Leg With Deep Vein Thrombosis - DVT - Illustration

As with phlebitis, deep vein thrombosis or DVT is also caused by a blood clot in the leg.

In the case of a DVT, the most profound veins of the leg are blocked.

A deep venous thrombosis is considered a severe venous disease.

So, to avoid complications, DVT requires immediate attention. The patient should seek medical help as soon as possible.

DVT (deep vein thrombosis) treatment

Typically, to treat deep vein thrombosis, doctors may recommend:

    • Anticoagulant medicines to prevent further blood clots from forming
    • To elevate the legs
    • Wear support stockings to circulate the blood and deflate the leg

Also, doctors may prescribe other treatments in more severe cases of deep venous thrombosis.

 

Who should not wear compression socks?

Presence of side effects

First, you should know that wearing compression socks may lead to undesirable side effects, but in rare cases.

Side effects of wearing compression stockings can be caused by:

    • Poor quality stockings made by unknown brands
    • Inadequate level of compression
    • Wrong compression socks size
    • Support stockings that were bought a long time ago, so the compression is no longer effective

So, to avoid side effects, choosing compression stockings adapted to the user's specific needs is advisable.

Also, it is always best to buy compression socks from recognized brands with medical quality materials.

What to do to overcome side effects?

If you experience side effects, such as irritation or aching in the legs, you should stop wearing these stockings immediately.

Other situations where you should not wear compression stockings

People with fragile health or chronic illnesses should not wear compression stockings unless prescribed by a doctor.

Among the situations where wearing compression socks can be harmful:

    • Heart disease, including uncontrolled congestive heart failure
    • Ischemia, which is a serious arterial disease
    • Uncontrolled skeptical phlebitis
    • Severe peripheral neuropathy
    • When wearing compression stockings causes itching, irritations, or skin ulcers

    Summary

    The use of compression stockings is not limited to situations of chronic venous insufficiency (CVI) only.

    In many other situations, their use can be beneficial to:

      • Feel better
      • Avoid discomfort in the legs
      • And prevent varicose veins or other venous diseases

    In this article, we have listed the situations where compression socks can be beneficial, among these:

      • For running
      • To travel on long flights
      • During pregnancy
      • When you are overweight
      • When you are diabetic
      • After certain surgeries
      • When you are a nurse, etc.

    Too we have dedicated a section to explain when wearing compression socks can be harmful.

    Article last updated: April 10, 2024.

    Wal Assi

    About the author

    Wal Assi

    Wal combines cutting-edge technical expertise with solid practical experience acquired over more than twenty-nine years, including fifteen years at the helm of companies specializing in orthopedic products and health & wellness products.

    Holding a Bachelor of Business Administration, an MBA, and the CFA designation, Wal has an in-depth knowledge of specialized orthopedic products, ranging from compression socks to supports and braces.

    In addition to his practical and technical knowledge of various products, Wal keeps up to date by attending continuous training, following new industry trends, and reading scientific and professional articles related to the products distributed by Doctor Brace.

    Wal offers reliable and well-researched advice through his writings. His articles reflect his technical and practical expertise, as well as a deep understanding of the needs of his target clientele.