Can Wearing Compression Socks Be Harmful? We’re Here to Set the Record Straight

If you’ve considered wearing compression socks, then you probably already know a little something about their claims. Fans say that graduated compression therapy can provide relief from swelling, pain and venous disorders in the legs and feet, all without drugs or expensive medical procedures — but are compression socks all they’re cracked up to be?

Generally speaking, compression therapy does work and is recommended by the American Venous Forum to treat the signs and symptoms associated with venous diseases. However, not every person with leg or foot pain should immediately go out and buy a dozen pairs of compression stockings. Here’s some more information to help you decide if you’re a good candidate.

woman calf feeling pain

Compression Therapy 101

Poor circulation prevents your body from sending the needed blood, oxygen and nutrients throughout your system, which can result in pain, swelling and numbness. So how does compression therapy work? Wearing graduated compression garments applies pressure of varying degrees to the legs, which offers support to the veins covered by the fabric and speeds up the flow of blood. Studies show that compression stockings are effective when used to increase venous blood flow velocity and that they prevent leg swelling following prolonged periods of standing and sitting.


Am I a Good Candidate?

People who deal with a wide range of venous conditions can experience some reprieve from pain and swelling with compression. Good candidates include:

  • Those with Medical Conditions — Donning a pair of medical compression socks can do wonders for people with venous and lymphatic disorders, including deep vein thrombosis, varicose veins, lymphedema, edema, venous leg ulcers and others. Different levels of pressure, from mild to severe, are used to help treat specific venous conditions.
  • Pregnant Women — Due to hormonal changes in the body and its need to increase blood volume, pregnant women develop deep vein thrombosis and may be at risk for blood clots. What’s more, pregnancy can cause swelling and pain in the feet and legs. Pregnant women can wear maternity compression hose or support bands to alleviate these symptoms.

 foot swelling during pregnancy

  • People with Diabetes — Doctors often recommend that people with diabetes invest in compression socks in order to relieve swelling in the legs, ankles and feet, which is one of the most common side effects of diabetes. Typically, doctors recommend diabetes socks to help correct sugar-related artery hardening. However, not all diabetes patients are good candidates for compression therapy, so always talk to your physician before you don any socks.
  • Anyone Who Stands or Sits Most of the Day — When you’re stationary all day, your muscles and tissues begin to feel strained and your blood flow begins to slow. This is why your legs, feet and ankles may feel sore or fatigued after a long shift on your feet or a prolonged period of sitting. Wearing compression hose or similar garments can increase blood flow to reduce swelling and pain while you’re on or off the clock.

Who is Not a Good Candidate?

All these benefits notwithstanding, there are some people who definitely shouldn’t try compression therapy. Generally speaking, compression garments are safe to wear, but compression therapy can be unsafe for people with arterial insufficiency (arterial disease) because it can lead to ischemic necrosis (the death of bone tissue). Those with skin sensation disorders, dermatitis or pulmonary edema related to congestive heart failure are also not ideal candidates for compression therapy.

female therapist

You should always consult your doctor before starting any new kind of therapy to make sure that you are a good candidate. Additionally, if you decide that this treatment option is right for you, it helps to know a few general dos and don’ts before beginning. For one, you shouldn’t sleep in compression garments without the go-ahead from a medical professional and be sure to look into the right compression level for your unique conditions before ordering your first pair. Ames Walker is staffed by a team of compression experts who can always help answer your questions.

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