All About Compression Stockings & Socks

What is compression therapy?
How does compression therapy work?
Who can benefit from compression therapy?
When & where should I wear compression stockings?
How long should I wear compression stockings?
How should I care for my compression stockings?
How often should I replace my compression stockings?
Medical compression conditions & symptoms
How do I choose a compression class?
Long distance travel & compression socks
Pregnancy & compression garments
Tips for keeping legs healthy while wearing compression stockings
Medical Insurance
Compression Stocking Videos

What is compression therapy?

Gradient compression delivers a squeezing to the leg that is tightest at the ankle. The degree of squeezing, or compression, gradually decreases up the leg. Compression is generally expressed in mmHg (millimeters of mercury).


How does compression therapy work?

The presence of edema (swelling) creates increased interstitial pressure and fluid accumulation. Resistance over the tissue becomes necessary for the removal of excess fluid. Compression therapy provides the necessary resistance to return fluid to circulation.

The most beneficial effects of compression are its effects on the capillaries and tissue spaces. Compression is believed to increase the pressure in the tissues beneath the skin, thus reducing excess leakage of fluid from the capillaries and increasing absorption of tissue fluid by the capillaries and lymphatic vessels. The physical presence of the stocking also helps control the size (diameter) of superficial veins beneath the stocking. The stocking does not allow these superficial veins to over-expand with blood. This action helps prevent "pooling" at the ankles and/or wrists. The venous blood then flows more quickly up the leg towards the heart.



Who benefits from compression therapy?

If you suffer from any of the following, compression garments may be for you.

  • Lymphedema
  • Serious edema
  • Pain and swelling
  • Mild and Intense Venous Insufficiency
  • Phlebitis
  • Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT)
  • Spider Veins
  • Leg Ulcers
  • Lipodermatosclerosis
  • Diabetes
  • Dermatitis (skin issues)
  • Skin Discoloration
  • Tired, Aching Legs

When & where should I wear compression garments?

Compression garments can be worn almost anytime and anywhere – at work, at home, while exercising and running, while traveling, during leisurely activities, etc.


How long do I need to wear the garment(s) on a daily basis?

Compression garments are meant to be worn all day. The best time to apply compression garments is in the morning, after waking up. This is the time of day limbs have the least amount of swelling.


How should I take care of my compression garments?

  • Washing - Most garments may be machine or hand-washed. It is recommended that the garments are washed daily, using a mesh laundry bag to protect the fabric from zippers, buttons and other rough items in the laundry. If lotion is being used, apply at night time when the garment is not in use. Mild soaps and detergents should be used while cleaning to prolong the life of the garment; harsh chemicals and lotions can destroy the fibers.
  • Drying - Air-drying and machine-drying are both acceptable as drying methods. If machine-drying is used, dry without heat or very low heat


How often should I replace my compression garment(s)?

It is recommended that you replace your compression garment within 3 to 6 months OR:

  • When the garment is no longer difficult to apply
  • When fibers are thin or worn
  • When there are large holes in the garment
  • When the garment has lost its shape
  • When the garment no longer compresses the body effectively


Medical Compression Conditions & Choosing a Compression Class

Tired, Aching Legs

Standing and sitting for long periods of time can cause your legs to ache and feel tired. Blood pools at the ankles and has a hard time returning. 8-15mmHg gradient compression stockings give a gentle squeeze at the ankles and up the legs to get your blood flowing back toward your heart. This helps relieve that tired, achy feeling in your legs.



Build-up of fluid in the body's tissues, often occurring in the lower leg and ankle, is called swelling or edema. Painless swelling may be caused by some medications, injury, vein problems, heart problems or other reasons. Prolonged swelling should not be ignored, as it may be a sign of serious disease or chronic venous insufficiency.

Symptoms of edema:

  • Enlarged ankles and calf (lower leg may appear puffy)
  • Discomfort or tired legs
  • Decreased mobility (leg may feel heavy)
  • Decreased skin elasticity

Mild swelling is often managed with 15-20mmHg compression. Moderate and severe swelling may require higher compression. Please consult with your physician.

Remember to talk with your doctor or health care provider before wearing compression 20mmHg and greater.

Varicose Veins

Varicose veins can be mild to severe. They are caused from the backflow or pooling of blood in a damaged vein. They may occur as the result of heredity or develop during pregnancy.

Symptoms of varicose veins:

  • Aching and discomfort in the leg
  • Leg heaviness and fatigue
  • Inflammation of a superficial vein

20-30mmHg is the most commonly selected level of compression for varicose veins. The compression level that is best for you will depend on the severity of your symptoms. Please consult with your physician.

Remember to talk with your doctor or health care provider before wearing compression 20mmHg and greater.


Venous Insufficiency

Damaged valves in the veins can cause blood to pool in the leg and lead to swelling and discomfort. This condition is called chronic venous insufficiency (CVI), and can lead to skin damage and leg ulcers.

Symptoms of CVI:

  • Varicose veins
  • Daily swelling of the leg
  • Skin color changes around and above the ankle region
  • Dermatitis
  • Fragile skin - opens easily with minor trauma

CVI can be effectively managed by wearing gradient compression stockings daily. The 30-40mmHg knee length compression stocking is the most widely prescribed stocking for chronic venous insufficiency.

Remember to talk with your doctor or health care provider before wearing compression 20 mmHg and greater.


Deep Vein Thrombosis

A deep vein thrombosis (DVT) is a blood clot that forms in a deep vein, partially or completely blocking the flow of blood. A long-term side effect of DVT may be one or more damaged venous valves that allow backward flow of venous blood. Improperly functioning valves lead to venous congestion in the leg, increasing the risk for chronic venous insufficiency (CVI) and new DVT.

30-40mmHg knee length compression stockings are prescribed to manage the acute symptoms of DVT and to help prevent the long-term effects.

Remember to talk with your doctor or health care provider before wezaring compression 20 mmHg and greater.


General Compression Class Chart
*Please ask your doctor which compression level will work best for you.

Class 1

  • Light (8-15mmHg)
  • Mild (15-20mmHg)
  • Moderate (20-30mmHg)

Class 2 (Should be prescribed by a doctor or health care provider.)

  • Firm (30-40mmHg)

Class 3 (Should be prescribed by a doctor or health care provider.)

  • Extra-Firm (40-50mmHg)
  • Extra-Firm (50mmHg+)


Long Distance Travel & Compression Socks

Long distance travel, whether by automobile, train, or airline can be associated with leg discomforts and risks. Lack of leg movement gives way to swelling of the feet and legs. The swelling contributes to leg fatigue, discomfort and the sensation of leg heaviness.

Activity restriction in the confined seated position results in diminished flow of venous blood from the legs back to the heart. This combined with pre-existing risk factors may lead to a more serious danger - travel-related thrombus. You may have heard this reported in the media as economy class syndrome (ECS). A travel-related thrombus is a venous thrombosis (blood clot in a vein) associated with greater than 5 hours of travel in a seated position. The venous thrombosis may be limited to a deep vein (DVT) or a fragment could flow to the lungs and lodge causing a pulmonary embolism (PE).

The likelihood of a thrombus occurring can be reduced with appropriate preventive measures suited to an individual’s risk. Risk factors for long-distance travel related venous thrombosis include: age >40, malignancy, heart failure, severe varicose veins, chronic venous insufficiency (CVI), obesity, hormonal medication, previous DVT, family history of DVT, and recent surgery.

Consult with your physician to determine your risk category and seek advice on appropriate prophylactic measures, including the amount of compression to wear.


Recommendations for any extended travel:

  • Drink plenty of non-alcoholic fluids, especially water
  • Perform ankle movements often
  • Stretch and exercise your legs at least once every hour
  • Elevate legs when possible
  • Avoid high-heeled footwear and restrictive clothing
  • Wear gradient compression hosiery
  • Seek medical advice if you have or are concerned about any risk factor


Pregnancy & Compression Garments

Pregnancy is a special time to take care of your developing baby and yourself. While much of the focus is on your baby and bodily changes, changes are also affecting your veins. The normal hormonal changes that occur with pregnancy affect the walls of your veins causing the vein walls to relax or dilate. Relaxation of the veins occurs early in the pregnancy – during the first trimester. Total blood volume also increases in the first trimester and gradually rises with gestation. Your total blood volume may increase as much as 45% in comparison to the non-pregnant level. Relaxation of the vein walls, especially in areas of venous valves may cause the valve to become incompetent – thus allowing backward flow of the venous blood.

Vein relaxation, valve incompetence, and increased blood volume all contribute to reducing venous flow from your legs. The reduced flow results in congestion. Venous congestion in turn causes swelling and leg discomfort. Ankle swelling occurs with most pregnant women.

During the later months of pregnancy (third trimester) the weight of the baby and the uterus may impede return of blood through the veins of your legs. This is often dependent on your physical position.

Gradient compression stockings reduce venous congestion and support the superficial veins of your legs. This helps manage the increased blood volume and relaxed vein walls thus reducing the amount of swelling and the severity of varicose veins. Talk with your obstetrician or OB nurse about the amount of compression and stocking style best suited for you during this pregnancy.



Tips for Keeping your Legs Healthy (in conjunction with Compression Therapy)

Leg Health

Problems with the veins of the leg occur in both men and women of all ages but certain factors increase the risk of venous problems. Health conditions, lifestyle habits, heredity, injury, surgery, age, and pregnancy all play a role.

While you are unable to control heredity, age, surgery and changes during pregnancy, you can improve lifestyle factors through exercise, good posture, avoiding inactivity, choosing good fitting clothing and footwear, and wearing gradient compression hosiery that is right for you.

Helping Yourself

Three easy actions can help you maintain the health of your leg veins:

  1. Exercise
  2. Elevation
  3. Wearing gradient compression hosiery

Regular walking, swimming, or cycling works the calf and thigh muscles. Contraction of these muscles helps the return of venous blood from the legs back to the heart. Compression therapy alone is not enough. Exercise and periods of leg elevation are also necessary for effective management of edema, venous disease, and lymphatic disease.

Checklist for Keeping Legs Healthy

  1. Elevate your feet above the level of your heart whenever possible.
  2. Draw letters of the alphabet with your toes once each hour when sitting for extended time.
  3. Avoid long periods of standing or sitting.
  4. Avoid crossing your legs, wearing high-heeled shoes or tight-fitting clothes.
  5. Lose excess weight.


Medical Insurance

Compression Wellness does not accept medical insurance for products sold on this website. If you have a prescription, you may be able to submit a claim direct to your insurance, if your plan allows. For more info, please consult your insurance provider.


Informative Videos - Click the title to watch the video.

Compression Clothing for Athletes
Compression hose for pregnancy

How-To Videos - Click the title to watch the video.

How to put on compression stockings
How to measure for knee-high stockings
How to properly take off compression hose
How compression socks and stockings work
How to measure for compression stockings
How to use a JOBST® Stocking Donner