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Do Compression Socks Really Work?

What are compression socks?

Compression Socks
Compression socks or compression stockings are used to relieve manifestations of disease of the veins in the lower limbs.

Compression stockings are stretchable stockings that apply gentle pressure over the ankles and calves to promote blood flow, prevent the formation of blood clots, and reduce pain.

What are the uses of compression socks?

Compression socks or compression stockings are used to relieve manifestations of disease of the veins in the lower limbs. Compression stockings may be used in the following conditions of the lower limbs:

  • Edema (swelling) of the lower limbs.
  • Venous insufficiency: Inability of the veins to pump blood back into the heart.
  • Varicose veins: Enlarged, swollen, and twisted veins. They appear blue or dark purple. Varicose veins occur when faulty valves in the veins allow blood to pool or flow in the wrong direction.
  • Deep vein thrombosis (DVT): This occurs when blood flow decreases in the lower limbs, for example, due to lack of movement for several hours after surgery, long flight travel, etc., blood pools in the legs and forms clots.
  • Lymphedema: Accumulation of lymph fluid in the legs.
  • Phlebitis: Inflammation of the veins.
  • Pregnancy: During pregnancy, there is compression of major veins and hormones, which causes swelling of the legs.

Can it be dangerous to wear compression socks?

Compression socks are quite safe and do not generally cause complications. To avoid complications, it is important to be aware of the following:

  • Compression socks should not be too tight or cause pain. Compression socks come in various sizes, so it’s important to select the correct size after consultation with a doctor or nurse. If it is too tight, it can cut off blood supply and oxygenation, causing tissue death.
  • You must consult with a doctor before using compression socks because compression stockings can be dangerous in certain conditions and should be avoided. Some of these conditions are:
    • A disease of the arteries 
    • Heart failure 
    • Inflammation of the veins that is spreading to the rest of the body
    • Infections and/or inflammation of the skin

Do compression socks really work?

Compression socks have been found to work based on clinical evidence, especially in diseases of the veins in the legs. Compression socks have been found to have the following benefits:

  • Improving blood circulation in the legs
  • Prevent blood from pooling in your leg veins
  • Reduce leg swelling
  • Prevent ulcers
  • Prevent blood clots in the veins of the legs 
  • Reduce pain 
  • Reduce varicose veins 
  • Improve lymphatic drainage

How should compression socks be used?

Compression socks should not be used without first consulting your doctor. Compression socks come in various lengths and sizes, and they need to fit properly based on measurements of the patient’s legs. A doctor or nurse should assess the right size for the compression socks. 

Compression socks are typically worn during the day and taken off during bedtime. This may vary for certain conditions, hence it’s advised to follow the recommendations by the doctor. The socks may be worn on one or both legs depending on the condition.

The socks should be washed regularly to maintain hygiene. It is recommended to wash them by hand to maintain the elasticity for a longer time. If the compression socks become loose, discontinue use because they would not provide adequate compression and hence would not be effective.

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Reviewed on 6/18/2020
References
References https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4081237/

https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/hiv-aids
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