Can Wearing Compression Socks Be Harmful?

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Are compression socks good or bad for you? 

Let’s find out…

Can wearing compression socks be harmful? In general, compression socks are safe to wear for healthy people, as long as doctor’s instructions are followed and the right compression rating is used. Risks to the use of compressions socks are minor. The negative effects include skin irritation, discomfort, and temporary skin dimpling from the tightness. People with peripheral neuropathy, skin infections, dermatitis, pulmonary edema, and circulation problems should not wear compression stockings without doctor’s guidance.


How Do Compression Socks Work?

Blood is pumped in the body through the veins. 

Veins work against gravity to pump deoxygenated blood back to the heart. 

Illness and trauma sometimes make the veins lose the ability to contract and pump blood causing it to pool in the legs. 

Compression socks squeeze the leg’s tissue, muscles, and vein walls. 

This results in the following:

  • helps the legs regain its normal shape
  • assists the vein valves to recover function and pump blood back to the heart
  • Improves blood circulation

Watch the video to learn how compression socks work.


Why Wear Them?

effects of wearing compression socks on veins

Compression stockings keep the legs from getting sore, tired, and achy. 

It brings down the swelling in the feet and ankles. 

Wearing compression stockings helps those with spider veins and varicose veins. 

Most importantly, it prevents blood from pooling in the legs and forming clots that can travel to other parts of the body where it may cause danger to your health.


Who Would Benefit From Wearing Compression Socks

Wearing compression socks is a lot more common than you think and is not just for older people with health issues. 

Athletes wear compression socks to enhance oxygen delivery to the muscles, improve blood circulation to the heart and speed up the removal of lactic acid build up in the muscles.

It also lessens muscle vibration during runs and prevents soft-tissue injuries and sprains.

Others who use compression stockings are:

  • People who had surgery and are bed-bound
  • Those who are on their feet all day at work.
  • Pregnant women
  • Those who often fly like frequent travelers, flight attendants, and pilots
  • Those who are at risk for circulation problems like deep vein thrombosis, diabetic neuropathy, and varicose veins. 


Types Of Compression Socks

There is a variety of compression wear. 

It can be socks, sleeves, or stockings.

Socks are typically knee-high, while stockings can be thigh-high, tights or leggings type.  

Spandex and micro nylon are the usual materials used for compression stockings and sleeves with a 20% and 80% mix to get the right amount of compression and support.

What Do Compression Ratings
Mean?

Compression sock ratings are based on blood pressure using millimeters of mercury or mmHg. 

There are 4 compression levels with a higher number meaning greater compression.

Mild compression is 15 mmHg and is ideal for pregnant women or those who are on their feet most of the day. 

Moderate compression is 15-20 mmHg and is for people suffering mild swelling and those that fly frequently. 

A compression rating of 20-40 mmHg is considered medical-grade and is for medical use – DVT, edema, post-surgery clot prevention, etc.


Tips To Easily Put On Compression Stockings

Putting on compression socks and tights can be a struggle because it’s snug. 

Here’s how to make it a bit easier to put on:

1. Pull the sock over your arm and hold the heel pocket with the thumb. 

2. Turn the sock inside out to the heel pocket. 

3. Spread the opening by hooking the thumbs on either side of the toe tunnel and slide the sock onto the foot.

4. Grab the ends of the sock and pull over the ankle and calf.

5. Smooth out the wrinkles and folds to avoid irritation and skin dimpling by massaging the socks from the ankles going up.

Watch the video below to see how it’s done.


The Good And Bad Of Wearing Compression Stockings

There are benefits and risks of wearing compression socks. 

The primary benefit is to increase the circulation of blood back to the heart and avoid the legs swelling from pooling blood and other fluids.


Other Benefits
 

  • Help prevent venous ulcers.
  • May help prevent orthostatic hypotension, the lightheaded feeling from standing up too quickly.
  • Prevents blood clots from forming after surgery.
  • Reduces soreness and achy legs.


Risks

There are no risks aside from the discomfort that comes with wearing a tight sock.

You may feel irritation or itching. 

The worst-case would be getting skin indentations or dimples but those go away when the sock is removed. 

Getting the right size and compression pressure definitely helps.


Can You Wear It For 24 Hours?

Depending on the medical condition being treated, some doctors may prescribe wearing compression socks for longer periods, even overnight. 

But in general, it is not advisable to wear socks for extended periods, especially sleeping with compression socks on. 

It’s designed to help circulation for people who are moving and upright when circulation is working against gravity. 

Lying down, there is no gravity to work against and the circulation system can get cut off.

It’s important to note that the feet should be kept dry before wearing socks to avoid developing fungal infections. 

Also, change socks in between uses to keep the feet clean and healthy.


What’s The Ideal Time To Wear Compression Socks

There’s no set specific time to wear compression socks. 

Most people find it easiest to put compression socks on in the morning since the legs are not yet tired and swollen. 

Plus, it’s in the mornings when most of the sitting and standing is done with work and other activities. 

If you suffer from varicose veins, putting the feet up to elevate may help with circulation. 

Some doctors may also prescribe wearing compression stockings at night to help with cramps and restless leg syndrome. 


How Long Should I Wear Compression Socks?

Treatment may vary from person to person. 

A doctor may prescribe it during the day if you are constantly on your feet as preventive care. 

Teachers, sales personnel, flight attendants, pilots, and nurses are some professions that may find compression socks beneficial.

Pregnant women will benefit from wearing compression socks and can stop after their baby is born. 

Treatment for medical conditions can range in length from 3 to 6 months to longer term.


Compression Socks Cost

It is priced more expensively compared to regular socks. 

The price range is between $15 to $30 dollars a pair.


Where To Buy Compression Socks

Compression socks are available from drugstores and pharmacies, department stores, online specialty stores, and marketplaces like Amazon and eBay.

There are medical clinics and podiatrists who offer custom-made compression socks that are made to measure to your personal specifications and needs.


Best Compression Socks

The Phisix Gear compression socks are one of the best-graduated compressions socks. 

It comes in 20-30 mmHg compression levels and used by nurses, frequent travelers, runners, and pregnant women. 

The higher compression levels keep legs stabilized and less tired at the end of the day. The sizing fits larger leg circumferences.


Taking Care Of Compression Socks

Wear a fresh pair of socks every day. 

To wash the socks put it in warm water with mild soap, do not use bleach or fabric softener.  

When using a washing machine, place the socks inside a garment bag before placing in the wash. 

Keep nails trimmed so the socks do not snag and form runs on the socks. 

Buy a new pair every 3 months or so to keep the pressure consistent. 

You will know it’s time to buy a new pair when the socks do not feel tight or show bunching and wrinkling.


Can Compression Socks Prevent Neuropathy?

Neuropathy is a serious condition that develops as a complication of diabetes. Wearing compression socks will help to increase blood flow in the legs and feet that have been damaged by diabetic neuropathy.

Compression socks are not a cure but can help neuropathy from worsening. 

Take note to get the right size and compression grade so the legs are supported and not constricted. 

Another feature to look for is seamless joins so there will be mo chafing or rubbing against the skin that can become blisters or infected.

How Long Should You Wear Compression Socks For Edema?

Edema is water retention, the abnormal fluid build-up common in the feet, ankles, and the legs because of poor circulation. 

Consult your doctor on how long you should wear the socks.

Keeping the edema under control with medication (diuretics) and check-ups with the doctor will limit the time needed to wear compression socks to a few months. 

Severe edema cases may require wearing compression socks for the rest of your life. 

Your doctor may also prescribe wearing multiple socks at the same time.

Depending on your case of edema, your doctor may prescribe wearing compression socks or tights from morning until bedtime. 

Take off socks before you go to bed and elevate the feet so fluids and blood do not pool in the ankles and legs. 

Put on socks in the morning when the swelling is the lowest. 

Elevate the feet for 30 minutes if the legs are already swollen with fluid. 


Why Do I Need To Wear Compression Socks On Long Haul Flights

Sitting in one position for long periods of time causes the blood to slow down circulation and pool in the legs. 

This makes you prone to form blood clots. 

The likelihood of developing clots on a flight is low but the risk increases the longer the travel time is. 

Wearing compression socks is a solution when flying long-haul with limited space to move and stretch the legs.


Compression Stockings And Surgery

Patients who had surgery are advised to wear compression socks to keep the blood flowing and prevent blood clots from forming. 

Wearing compression socks encourages blood circulation during a time when mobility is limited. 

When the patient has recovered and can freely move, the use of the socks can stop or may be lessened.


Won’t It Cut Off Circulation?

stockings showing gradation levels  pressure

Medical grade compression improves circulation not cut it off. 

To avoid the tight, constricting feeling, look for socks with graduated compression. 

The socks will be tightest at the ankles and ease up on the pressure as the socks go up the legs. 

This increases blood flow in an upward direction.


Is TED Hose The Same As Compression Stockings?

TED (Thrombo-Embolic Deterrent) hose are used by people who are bed-bound. 

The pressure for TED hose is 20 mmHg and it is strongest at the calf area where blood tends to pool when a person is lying down.

Compression socks have varying pressure levels from 10-40 mmHg. 

It is used for a variety of medical concerns and suited for moving and working against gravity. 

The pressure is greatest around the ankles for compression socks since standing up and sitting in one position makes the blood pool in the ankles and the feet. 


Do You Need A Prescription To Buy Compression Socks?

Compression socks with pressure levels of 10-15 mmHg can be bought at any pharmacy. 

Higher than that is medical grade and pharmacists may ask for a prescription but there is no law that requires a prescription to buy compression socks.

Editorial Staff
 

Editorial Staff at MindBodyPal is a team of experts led by Tyson Chiu. We love tacos, lattes and Funky Fridays.

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