Guide to Compression Socks and Stockings

Why do people use compression socks or stockings?

Compression socks and stockings are used for compression therapy to help people managing chronic venous disease (often called insufficiency) who are experiencing fatigue, heaviness, and aching.

Compression socks are often referred to as "gradient elastic stockings", the term first coined by Conrad Jobst in the 1950s. Gradient compression simply means that the squeezing to the leg that is tightest at the ankle and gradually decreases up the leg.

Compression offers two primary benefits to individuals suffering from chronic venous insufficiency:

  • Increasing the pressure in the tissue under the skin (subcutaneous) to reduce and prevent swelling. The compression helps move excess fluid (swelling) back into the capillaries (tiniest of the blood vessels) and helps prevent too much fluid from leaking out of these little vessels.
  • Reducing the ability of the superficial veins in the leg to expand and overfill with blood, causing congestion which leads to swelling, and skin changes common in persons with venous problems.

Also check out: Compression Levels and Measuring Guide.

Who should use compression socks and stockings?

Compression socks and stockings can help anyone's legs feel more energized! Those of us who spend a great deal of time in a sitting or standing position will especially appreciate the feeling of improved circulation, as will those with the following leg issues:

  • Tired, aching, heavy feeling legs
  • Leg swelling
  • Varicose veins
  • Venous insufficiency
  • Post-thrombotic syndrome
  • Healed venous ulcer
  • Active venous ulcer
  • Lymphedema

Who shouldn't use compression socks?

People with the following medical conditions should talk to their doctor before considering compression socks or stockings:
  • Ischemia (e.g. advanced arterial
  • disease) of the legs
  • Uncontrolled congestive heart failure
  • Untreated septic phlebitis of the leg
  • Incompatibility to fabric of garment
  • Impaired sensitivity of the limb
  • Phlegmasia cerulea dolens
  • Immobility (confinement to bed)
  • Skin infections

We also strongly recommend that you consult with your physician before wearing compression 20 mmHg and above.

Should I use knee-length compression socks or thigh-length compression stockings?

A knee-length gradient compression stocking is generally recommended to prevent or manage signs and symptoms of chronic venous insufficiency or other causes of lower leg swelling and skin changes.

When swelling or varicosities are present above the knee then a thigh-length compression sock or stocking may be a more effective choice.

Also check out: Compression Levels and Measuring Guide.

I've had a leg blood clot (also called a DVT) - why did my doctor recommend compression stockings?

Knee length gradient compression stockings are often prescribed for a patient who has sustained a deep vein thrombosis (DVT) or blood clot in the leg. The stockings are helpful in: 1. Controlling the swelling in the leg that occurs with DVT, and 2. To help prevent the development of post-thrombotic syndrome that may occur several months after the DVT.

What is the difference between an anti-embolism stocking and a medical compression stocking?

Anti-embolism stockings are designed specifically for bed bound (non-ambulatory) patients to help prevent blood from pooling in the veins of the leg. Pooling of blood in the veins of the leg may contribute to blood clots forming in the veins.

Anti-embolism stockings are generally made for short duration of wear during a hospitalization. Anti-embolism stockings deliver gradient compression and, depending on the manufacturer, the compression delivered to the ankle is in the range of 13 - 18 mmHg. These stockings are normally only available in white.

After discharge from the hospital or extended care facility, if you need to continue wearing gradient compression stockings (such as Jobst® Medical LegWear) your physician can advise you on an appropriate level of compression. Jobst® manufactures stockings in the 15-20 mmHg, 20-30 mmHg, and 30-40 mmHg ranges that are ideal for long term wear and comfort. Jobst® Medical LegWear look fashionable and are available in a variety of colors and styles.

Also check out: Compression Levels and Measuring Guide.