Compression therapy involves applying gentle progressive pressure to targeted body parts to help improve circulation. This approach is a standard, non-invasive patient intervention to prevent deep vein thrombosis, promote wound healing and manage lymphedema. It is also widely used by healthcare providers for personal health and well-being use. You see, gravity is a wonderful thing, keeping us grounded and not floating away into outer space. However, standing on your feet for extended periods of time, like in nursing, that same gravitation pull can play havoc on the body, leaving your legs feeling sore, drained, heavy and/or fatigued.
what are compression socks?
Compression socks (also known as compression stockings or support socks) are specially designed to optimize leg vein circulation. Their snug-fit, flexible material and ergonomic design provides gradual upward pressure to help blood flow from the lower extremities, back to the heart. This increased movement prevents blood from pooling, reducing the risk of blood clots, spider and varicose veins. It also reduces swelling caused by excess fluid retention leaving calves and legs feeling refreshed, supported and energized.
These benefits are why compression socks are strongly recommended for healthcare workers, athletes and other professions that require long-term standing, like teachers, grocery workers and flight attendants. Sitting for an extended period of time is another indicator to wear these specialty socks. Examples include traveling in a car or plane for multiple hours and desk-based jobs.
step by step putting on compression socks
In a research article by Winslow and Brosz, it was noted that 29% of individuals wear compression socks incorrectly, citing wrinkles, bunching and rolled-down tops. Therefore, in this article we’re breaking it down, step-by-step, on how to properly don and doff compression socks.
1. Before Getting Started: It’s recommended to put compression socks on first thing in the morning or upon waking up (for those working nightshift). Because of their tight-fit, you unfortunately cannot throw them on as you are running out the door. First, make sure your skin is dry, void of moisture, sweat or excess lotion. If needed, apply a light dusting of talcum powder or cornstarch immediately prior to ensure a smooth, frictionless skin surface.
2. Get Comfortable: Take a seated position when putting on compression socks. Settle on a spot where you feel secure, balanced and have ample leg and arm room. This may include a kitchen chair, closed toilet or bedroom ottoman.
3. Turn Inside-Out: Stick your hand through the opening of the sock until you reach the toe and heel space. If you look like you’re making a sock puppet, you’re doing it right! Next, keeping hold of that area, take your other hand and fold down the rest of the sock, turning it inside-out.
4. Inserting Your Foot: Point your toes downward while placing your foot in the exposed open pocket. Ensure your whole foot (toes, arch and heel) are perfectly in place before maneuvering the rest of the sock. You may need to make slight adjustments like aligning the top toe seam or fastening your heel into the precise location. Whatever you need to do, don’t rush it, this step is SUPER important when correctly donning a compression sock.
5. Pull Up: Now that your foot is locked into place, using both hands, begin to gently pull the rest of the sock over your ankle and lower leg. Ideally, the cuff should rest just above your calf and stay in place without any assistance or tugging. If the sock is too high or low, you will not receive proper compression and may be doing damage.
6. Smooth It Out: The final step requires you to smooth out imperfections. Immediately fix any wrinkles, bumps, loosened areas, scrunching or twisting before moving on to the other sock.
7. Taking off the Socks: Removing your compression socks is basically reversing the donning process described earlier. With both hands, start by pulling the top band downward in a way that the sock folds over on itself. Evenly and slowly work your way down your calf, releasing first your heel and then the toes. Although tempting, do not scrunch the socks or pull directly from the toe seam.
sizing & fit
Winslow and Brosz’s research also uncovered that 26% of the time, compression socks were sized incorrectly, leading to diminished comfort and therapeutic benefits. Next, we break down the components of finding the right size and type.
When shopping for compression socks, online or in-person, refer to the corresponding sizing chart since specifics may vary depending on brand or designer. The recommended size will be calculated using all or a combination of the following metrics: 1) shoe size, 2) ankle and calf circumference (measure the largest part of each), and 3) knee length (the distance from the bottom of your bended knee to the floor behind the heel).
When researching compression socks you will quickly notice that they come in varying grades of compression or “tightness” measured in pressure (mmHg).
(Medical Grade Class 1)
(Medical Grade Class 1)
(Medical Grade Class 3)
|Pressure||(15-20 mmHg)||(20-30 mmHg)||(30-40 mmHg)||(40-50 mmHg)|
|Common Use||light compression for
daily wear, travel, or sports,
|preventative pain & fatigue,
on feet for extended period of time
| severe swelling,
severe varicose veins
|severe lymphedema, severe
edema, and severe venous stasis.
The mildest version (8-15mmHg) is good for everyday use. The medium (15-20mmHg) and firm (20-30mmHg) grade are the most commonly used and recommended compression sock for healthcare professionals. It provides effective circulation support, reduces swelling and relieves strained, tired muscles. Extra firm (30-40mmHg) and Prescription grade (40-50mmHg) are therefore indicated for severe conditions directed by a doctor’s order.
Take time to try-on and experiment with compression socks before wearing them for long hours. They should feel comfortably snug but not tight. The goal is to improve blood flow so your legs/toes should never feel numb, tingly or cold to the touch. Lastly, compression socks come in many different colors, fun designs and attractive patterns. Choose ones that express your personality but also permissible with your work uniform policy.
get compressions socks for healthcare pros
Working in healthcare is incredibly physical due to long shifts, demanding patient care responsibilities, computer charting and nonstop running around. Investing in quality compression socks that are sized AND worn correctly is an act of self-love and preventative care. By promoting circulation and blood flow, you are taking an important step in your journey to achieving personal health and overall well-being… one sock at a time.
Chung, S.L., Alun H.D. (2014). Graduated compression stockings. CMAJ; 186(10): E391-E398.
Winslow, E.H., Brosz, D.L. (2008). Graduated compression stockings in hospitalized postoperative patients: correctness of usage and size. American Journal of Nursing; 108(9):40-50.