The Skinny on Compression Socks

The Skinny on Compression Socks

What do they do?

They help decrease work on the cardiovascular tissues within the body. In cases of increased swelling and/or poor lymphatic drainage, stockings assist when the vascular system of the body is unable to.

How do they work?

To understand how compression stockings work we must first understand swelling. Both acute and chronic swelling is not only annoying, but typically painful. Legs feel heavier, muscles don’t contract, and nerves don’t function the way they should. With acute swollen injuries, or stubborn ones that cause chronic accumulation of fluid, the 5 steps of treatment are to PRICE:

  • Protect
  • Rest
  • Ice
  • Compress
  • Elevate

Compression of the body region changes the pressure within that region which in turn changes blood flow. Swelling is vascular or lymphatic pooling (such as varicose and spider veins) into the limbs. Pooling is reduced by directing blood flow back up to the trunk. Adhering to the PRICE principle will help return the fluid back to the heart and axillary lymph nodes where it can be easily dissipated. Compression stockings help facilitate the clearance of fluid and mediate the discomfort by keeping the swelling above the stockings and closer to the heart.

Condition that benefit from compression stockings/garments?

  • Venous insufficiency
  • Diabetes
  • Cellulitis
  • Kidney disease
  • Injury (burns or bruising)
  • Post-op surgery
  • Lymphedema and certain cancers
  • Possible DVT
  • Pregnancy (helps nausea and peripheral edema)
  • Individuals who sit more than 4 hours per day

The different pressures of stockings for medical use:

Most of these conditions are discovered after thorough testing and sometimes hospitalization. They have been used for years in hospitals to treat edema.

So why are they becoming increasingly popular in the athletic rehab group?

Vigorous or high-intensity exercise forces the heart to shift the blood to the muscles and extremities and away from the vital organs. If the heart cannot keep up with the demands of the exercise intensity then blood will pool in the legs and arms following exercise. The longer it takes the blood to return to the organs after exercise the longer the recovery time.


Recovery time is important for those who exercise at this level every day, but it is also important for the rest of us weekend warriors who sit 5 days a week at an 8 hour job, eat fatty foods, come home to watch TV throughout the week and then expect to eat well for two days and jump into high-intensity weekend sports without getting hurt. If you find yourself in any of the previously listed categories then you would likely benefit from these types of garments.

If you are hurting from irregular weekend exercise, sitting more than 4 hours a day, or have a vascular/lymphatic deficiency, please come visit us at Oahu Spine and Rehab or Kisner Vein Clinic to begin or continue to address your problems. We are happy to help you achieve your fitness and lifestyle goals!


Al Shammeri O, AlHamdan N, Al-hothaly Bushra, Midhet F, Hussain M, Al-Mohaimeed A. Chronic Venous Insufficiency: prevalence and effect of compression stockings. International Journal of Health Sciences. 2014;8(3):231-236.

Alizadeh-Ghavidel A, Ramezannejad P, Mirmesdagh Y, Sadeghpour-Tabaei A. Prevention of Edema After Coronary Artery Bypass Graft Surgery by Compression Stockings. Research in Cardiovascular Medicine. 2014;3(2):e17463. doi:10.5812/cardiovascmed.17463.

Sugisawa R, Unno N, Saito T, et al. Effects of Compression Stockings on Elevation of Leg Lymph Pumping Pressure and Improvement of Quality of Life in Healthy Female Volunteers: A Randomized Controlled Trial. Lymphatic Research and Biology. 2016;14(2):95-103. doi:10.1089/lrb.2015.0045.

Mendoza E, Amsler F. A randomized crossover trial on the effect of compression stockings on nausea and vomiting in early pregnancy. International Journal of Women’s Health. 2017;9:89-99. doi:10.2147/IJWH.S120809.

Wade R, Paton F, Rice S, et al. Thigh length versus knee length antiembolism stockings for the prevention of deep vein thrombosis in postoperative surgical patients; a systematic review and network meta-analysis. BMJ Open. 2016;6(2):e009456. doi:10.1136/bmjopen-2015-009456.

Fujii N, Nikawa T, Tsuji B, Kenny GP, Kondo N, Nishiyasu T. Wearing graduated compression stockings augments cutaneous vasodilation but not sweating during exercise in the heat. Physiological Reports. 2017;5(9):e13252. doi:10.14814/phy2.13252.


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