Wearing compression socks can provide a host of benefits to people who suffer from all sorts of ailments. In general, compression socks help reduce the risk of blood clots and lend your veins some much appreciated support. Compression socks (also called compression stockings) do a great job of reducing swelling in the legs, feet, and ankles. One very common use for compression socks is to help manage post-surgical swelling.
It’s also a great idea to wear compression socks when you know you will be sitting for long periods of time. Remaining seated in the same position for an extended amount of time can sometimes cause blood clots or lead to swelling in the lower extremities (due to blood pooling).
For example, you might consider wearing compression socks on a long international flight, as there isn’t always a lot of opportunity to move around when you are on an airplane – especially if you are stuck in the window seat!
Other people who can benefit from compression socks are athletes and pregnant mothers. If your job requires you to sit for large portions of the day then you can even consider wearing compression socks to work. But before you dive in and start making compression socks a part of your day to day life, it’s important to do a bit of research!
Wearing compression socks – General information
The common procedure for wearing compression socks is to put them on in the morning and to wear them throughout the day. But when should you take them off? The answer is going to vary among individuals but one thing that is true for everyone is that you should ALWAYS take off your compression socks if they are causing you pain.
Generally speaking, if you have the right sock for your condition you should be able to wear the sock from morning to evening and take them off at bedtime.
But remember that compression socks are meant to alleviate symptoms, not aggravate them, or worse, create new problems. If your socks cause a lot of discomfort then you’ll want to inform your doctor and consider getting a professional compression sock fitting so that you can safely benefit from the socks.
Another rule of thumb that will apply to the majority of people who wear compression socks is that you shouldn’t wear them 24/7. In most cases, compression socks don’t need to be worn to bed at night.
Since circulation is already optimal when in a supine position, the compression socks are rendered nearly redundant. There may be some exceptions to this rule, but a good procedure is to avoid wearing them to sleep at night, unless you have been specifically instructed to do so by your doctor.
Who should wear compression socks?
- People who regularly have swelling in their feet, legs, or ankles
- Pregnant women
- People who are recovering from surgery
- People who suffer from disorders that affect the circulation
- People who are sitting or standing for long periods of time
- People who are on a long airplane flight (3 hours of more) or in a situation where they are sedentary for a long period of time
- People with diabetes
What symptoms do compression socks help alleviate/prevent?
- Swelling in the feet, legs, and ankles
- poor circulation
- achy legs
- blood clots
- post-surgical complications related to clots/circulation
- soreness after physical activity
- and more!
Committing to a schedule
When you do start wearing compression socks you will want to maintain a consistent schedule. Regular use of compression socks is necessary if you want to see the benefits. Sporadically wearing them every once in a while likely won’t resolve your ailments.
Best practice is to consult with a doctor when it comes to your compression sock schedule. Your doctor can help you decide whether you should wear your socks for just a few hours of the day, or whether it is in your best interest to wear them throughout the entire day, or even possibly throughout the night as well.
Compression socks for long-term users
Long-term use of compression socks will apply to people with medical conditions such as:
- varicose veins
- other conditions that affect blood circulation
Long-term compression sock users will usually wear compression socks from morning until night, although there are some conditions that could require people to wear compression socks almost 24/7.
Compression socks for short-term users
Short-term use of compression socks will apply to people who are using compression socks for the following:
- post-surgical healing
- long-distance travel
- reducing swelling in the feet, legs, or ankles as a result of pregnancy
- reducing occasional swelling or discomfort
- athletic recovery
- during select athletic activities
In general, there doesn’t seem to be a certain number of hours that is agreed upon as the maximum amount of time for wearing compression socks. They are designed for all-day wear, so unless they are causing you discomfort, you don’t need to fixate on a specific number of hours for daily wear.
How long should I wear compression socks in the long term?
Depending on your reason for wearing compression socks, you might end up wearing the socks for years or even the rest of your life. If you are trying to prevent varicose veins, for example, you will need to wear the socks religiously in order for them to have the desired effect.
If you are using compression socks to treat occasional swelling then you can adjust your use of compression socks accordingly. Some days you may have no swelling at all so you might not need to wear your compression socks. Other days your swelling may be quite severe so you’ll want to wear your compression socks throughout the whole day.
Short-term or sporadic use of compression socks
Types of wear that fall into this category are:
- wearing compression socks for an athletic activity or recovery from an athletic activity
- wearing compression socks when traveling or when sitting/standing (stationary for long periods of time)
- wearing compression socks to manage pregnancy symptoms
- wearing compression socks to decrease occasional swelling in the legs, feet, and ankles
Compression socks for athletes
The main benefits you will get from wearing compression socks post-activity are:
- reduced swelling
- increased blood circulation
- less muscle soreness in the days following the activity
Since compression socks help to increase blood circulation, they also help to increase the amount of oxygenated blood that travels to the muscles. Oxygenated blood is what muscles need to recover. Wearing compression socks might help you to combat the lethargic, achy feeling that you feel the day after a big workout. Some athletes might use compression socks while they are doing their respective sports and others might use them as a post-activity recovery tool.
Examples of sports for which the use of compression socks is common are cycling and running. Most of the time it is only people who are running or cycling longer distances who will use compression socks. Other athletes that you might see wearing compression socks are basketball players and triathletes. However, most scientific evidence concludes that compression socks are more effective as a recovery tool than as a performance enhancer.
Compression socks for travel
People who use socks for travel but who have no other medical conditions that can be treated by medical socks can regulate their use of compression socks exclusively to those times when they are traveling long distances. In fact, any flight or extended period of travel that is longer than 3 hours would merit the use of compression socks.
Compression socks for pregnancy
Pregnant women might not find it necessary to wear compression socks for the entire duration of their pregnancy. Pregnant mothers can use compression socks to combat swollen feet and varicose veins – two common side affects of pregnancy. However, it is a good idea to consult with a doctor when it comes to using compression socks during pregnancy.
Compression socks post-surgery: how long to wear them?
This is both the easiest and hardest question to answer. It’s the easiest because your doctor should have given you very precise directives regarding your use of compression socks. It’s the hardest because each case will vary and no source from the internet is qualified to tell you what should be done in each specific case – only your doctor can do that.
A common surgery that requires compression socks during recovery is a sclerotherapy procedure. Sclerotherapy is used to reduce varicose veins or spider veins. But you might even be instructed to wear compression socks after having a surgery elsewhere on your body. Compression socks can improve overall circulation which is conducive to healing and to preventing clots. This comes into play with surgeries such as hip replacements.
Recovery times post-surgery will vary according to person and according to what surgical procedure you had done. You might be instructed to wear the socks for a number of weeks or even months after surgery. In most cases, your doctor will likely want you to wear the socks all day long and take them off when you go to bed – same as how you would wear compression socks in normal circumstances.
But as mentioned before, the doctor’s instructions will vary!
When don’t I need to wear compression socks?
If you are in the comfort of your own home you might be able to treat swelling and discomfort with methods other than compression socks. If you’re able to relax on your couch with your feet up, you probably don’t need to be wearing compression socks. Putting your feet up will do a great job at alleviating swelling.
You also don’t need to (and shouldn’t) wear compression socks when you are in the shower, in the bath, or going swimming!
Don’t wait until it’s too late!
One thing worth noting when it comes to compression socks is that there is definitely a right and a wrong way to go about wearing them. They are not able to work their magic instantaneously, and if you wear them incorrectly, they won’t work their magic at all.
If you are using compression socks to treat a chronic issue such as varicose veins, you will want to be quite religious about your use of compression socks. It’s only with consistent use that you’ll be able to see an improvement. You can’t just put them on a couple times a week thinking that will make a difference.
If you’ve been instructed by your doctor to put your compression socks on first thing in the morning, be sure to do so. If you wait to put your socks on until later in the day, you may find that your legs have already swollen a bit and the socks will be very hard – or impossible – to put on.
The same would hold true for people who want to use compression socks when traveling. If you wait until halfway through your 8-hour flight to put the socks on, your feet might already be too swollen to put the socks on, and the benefits of wearing compressions socks will be much less than if you had worn them for the full duration of the flight.
And again, if you wait until half way through your flight you might find the socks difficult or impossible to put on. Also, putting on compression socks within the tight confines of the airplane will be much less comfortable than putting them on in the comfort of your own home or hotel room.
Potential negative effects of wearing compression socks for too long
In this section, “for too long” refers to daily wear of compression socks. Here’s a quick overview of some side effects you may experience if you keep your compression socks on for too long.
It’s important to note that all of these side effects are likely to occur ONLY if you are wearing improperly fitting socks. Possible negative effects include:
- tingling feet
- loss of circulation
- corns and calluses
- joint pain in knees
Properly fitted socks can eliminate these symptoms. In order to avoid tingling sensation or loss of circulation you should make sure that your socks are not too tight for you. Have them measured by a professional!
To prevent itching you should make sure that you are washing your socks daily and you can consider getting some sort of powder that helps keep the skin calm. Make sure to wear breathable pants/shoes as well (when possible).