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Nursing Compression Socks – Complete Guide (with Pictures)

picture of nurse wearing 30mmHg blue graduated knee high compression socks to improve blood circulation

Knee high Compression socks and stockings are recommended today by a variety of physicians to edema patients, workers, nurses, travelers, and professional athletes. They help improve blood and circulation.

picture of nurse in hospital with 20mmHg graduated high knee compression socks on feet and black shoes to help improve blood circulation

This study will surely help you in understanding the role, benefits, and uses of knee high nursing compression socks for nurses. It will also describe in full detail the composition, purpose, sizes, and variants of graduated knee high clothing available in the market today.

Highlighted Benefits:

  • Prevent varicose veins
  • Reduce foot pain
  • Prevent edema
  • Increase comfort during active hours

Nursing Profession

The History

picture of a nurse shaking hand with satisfied and healed patient after using graduated knee high clothing to help improve blood circulation

Nursing is one of the most timeless and most admirable professions throughout history. Nurses throughout history have taken care of patients (men, women, children, and infants) and families.  The origin of the nursing profession is older than the 19th century. However, it was recognized worldwide through the efforts of Florence Nightingale employed in the Crimean war (fought between 1853 and 1856).

picture of Florence Nightingale treating injured soldiers of the Crimean war

Florence Nightingale was an English nurse and social reformer. She is remembered as the founder of modern nursing. She was the first one to define and organize the nursing profession with the establishment of nursing schools and providing the basic principles for nursing and healthcare. Also, She gave her Environment Theory in the book called ‘Notes on Nursing.’

Picture of Florence Nightingale in middle with other nurses of her school, nurses in white in 19th Century

Modern Nursing

picture of a nurse pushing a wheelchair with old patient sitting on it while wearing graduated knee high clothing to help improve blood circulation

What began as simple knee high clothing for helping ladies in hospitals and healthcare centers during wartimes, has now taken the shape of a highly professional and contemporary institute throughout the world. Nurses are not limited to war hospitals only and are found in every clinic, hospital, and healthcare facilities.

picture of medical staff in green uniform with stethoscope and using tablet in hand while wearing graduated knee high clothing to help improve blood circulation

Advancements in modern nursing techniques and medical sciences have improved the work conditions for nurses. The current nursing profession has also added several additional duties and tasks for nurses. This includes patient care, medicine administration, diet plan adherence, recording vital readings, and tracking the progress of recovery (from disease or accident).

illustrated picture showing a nurse in blue uniform performing different duties in hospital, patient care,  emergency room, medication, and consultation to help patients learn how thigh or knee high graduated clothing can help them

In some countries, nurses are even allowed to prescribe and administer medication after specific advanced certification. Nurses can assist the physicians by accurate reporting of vitals and change in patient’s symptoms. The global nursing community observes a strict code of ethics, competency, emotional help towards patients, and unparalleled professionalism.

picture of nurse in blue uniform with stethoscope holding hands with old patient and consoling on graduated knee high clothing and how they help improve blood circulation

Challenges in Today’s Healthcare Setup

Nursing involves joint care of patients belonging to a range of ages, communities, nationalities, and physical and mental disorders. Nurses, both males, and females have to assess the patient needs according to their respective fields, for instance, nurses working in cancer hospitals have a different scope of work as compared to the ones working in burn treatment centers.

challenges for nurses that suggest why they need to wear thigh or knee high graduated clothing to help improve blood circulation

Similarly, nurses working in emergency, trauma centers, skincare units, imaging centers, laboratories, clinics, and other health care facilities have

However, in almost all fields, nurses have to face several physical, mental, and emotional challenges. These include:

  • Long and odd working hours

    funny meme about nurse exhausted and lying on hospital emergency bed

    Most of the shifts work in shifts of up to 12 and in some cases, 18 hours long. These long shifts can have severe short and long term effects on the human body, including fatigue, stress, disturbed sleep cycle, and less social time for family and friends.

    illustrated picture showing a frustrated and tired female nurse in white uniform perfroming simultaneous duties
  • On Job Hazards

    picture showing various ways by which a medical worker is harmed by being continuously exposed to certain elements in hospital

    Nurses risk exposure to germs, harmful fluids, and other hazardous fluids (and materials) every day. Some of these can directly affect their body and health. Nurses have to deal with needles, sharp edges tools, contaminated surgical equipment, and slippery floors of the emergency corridors.

  • Staff Shortage

    funny medical meme showing boss telling workers that they are short staffed

    Hospitals and healthcare facilities face an almost constant shortage of nursing staff. This puts even more work burden on the existing nursing staff and increases their shift hours as well.

    toy story funny meme about short staffed places
  • Fatigue, overexertion

    picture of a tired nurse in blue uniform sitting with forehead on knees and face covered with hands

    Nurses can experience fatigue, tiredness, and swollen feet and ankles due to long hours of standing, sitting, and physical exertion. The fatigue can be both mental and physical. Nurses can also face soreness, swollen feet, and ankles. This common issue is the cause of pain and discomfort for nurses and other staff associated with the healthcare profession.

Why do They Face Swollen Feet

hospital corridor with various healthcare providers wearing knee high hoses
picture of a swollen feet while working

In a healthcare environment, especially in trauma and emergency units of hospitals, nurses have to face a fast pace of work. The nerve-wracking workload leaves no time to relax or sit down for a cup of coffee. Blood can easily pool down in your lower limbs due to constant standing and work routine. 

painful edema feet

When the fluids do not return to your heart correctly, and the circulation is improper, you can expect an uncomfortable and painful feeling in your legs that leads to swollen feet, ankles, and sore joints. Your shoes seem to become tighter, and your feet feel like a sack full of jelly or liquid. In the beginning, you might feel small discomfort when you switch from your work shoes to regular ones. Later as the symptoms progress, you can experience pain and difficulty in changing your footwear.

swollen feet massage by hands and pressing feet.

Nurses’ legs are subject to extreme exertion and lengthy postures. Standing in the same position for an extended time while working on a report or checking vitals, bending over to change the medical aids of a patient, and moving back and fro the emergency corridors can be abusive for your feet and ankles.

edema feet

A twelve-hour shift on your feet along the bedside of patients in need of constant care and medical aid can be a hectic and tiresome job. Nurses are also prone to dependent edema in both lower and upper extremities. Dependent edema is common in professionals with limited mobility and can also be due to some other concerning issues, including heart disease, blood pressure, diabetes, kidney diseases, and cirrhosis.


  • Fast pace working conditions
  • Extreme exertion and lengthy postures

Symptoms and Treatment

healthy foot vs edema foot

Although swollen feet are not much of a danger to your health, they can cause extreme discomfort and prevent you from moving, traveling, and get on with your day to day tasks.

comparison of two feet swollen and other being normal, puffy and reddish swollen feet

Prolonged swelling of your feet and ankles might itself be a symptom of some other underlying health issue. If you experience severe chronic swelling of feet, you might be suffering from edema. You should visit your physician for appropriate medical guidance and treatment.

picture of a pregnant woman sitting on sofa and rubbing swollen feet,

 Remember that it may not be because of your nursing work routine that is the cause of the disorder. Swollen feet can also be due to pregnancy, edema, trauma to feet or ankles, lymphatic system disorders, and medication side effects.

Symptoms of the condition include heaviness and puffiness in toes, feet, ankles, and legs. You may also feel a weight in the lower body and fluids starting to fill your feet like a sack. As time goes by, you can also feel a throbbing and visible increase in the size of your lower limbs.

picture of swollen feet showing throbbing in lower limbs which can be treated with thigh or knee high graduated clothing

 Nursing is one of those professions that are prone to swollen feet and edema. Nurses often complain about swollen feet and ankles (and even hands in some severe cases) after long or continuous shifts. Another issue with swollen legs is that it can get worse even if you sleep or rest with the onset of the symptoms.


  1. Extreme discomfort
  2. Prolonged swelling
  3. Heaviness and puffiness in toes, feet, ankles

 Some of the conventional treatments used to reduce the swollen feet and ankle include:

  • Elevation of lower body

    picture of a man with feet elevated,placed on pillows for relieving swollen feet

    Elevating the lower body is a temporary way to reduce the puffiness and swelling of the feet by draining the accumulative fluids in the feet towards the core of the body. The blood leaves the lower limbs gradually (aided with gravity), and there is a reasonable relief in soreness and pain. Nurses and other healthcare professionals can do this activity during their breaks and end of shifts to reduce the swelling.

    picture of a women lying on sofa with feet elevated to reduce swelling
  • Exercise

    picture of funny baby making shocked face, funny exercise meme with funny shocked face baby

    Aerobic exercises, walking, and stretching keeps your body in shape, and you maintain your general wellness. Exercising can especially help with edema patients by improving blood circulation through muscles and blood vessels of limbs. Nurses can choose simple regular exercises to maintain their health and avoid swollen feet and ankles. You can also adjust your exercise routine according to your shifts and take short breaks between the shifts to stretch your muscles, hamstrings, and limbs.

    illustration showing woman exercising in various ways, woman weight lifting, woman on treadmill, woman running
  • Increasing magnesium in the diet

    picture of colored pills spilled from bottles of supplements including magnesium prescribed by physician

    Magnesium deficiency is another cause of swollen feet and ankles. You can use magnesium supplements as well as natural foods with magnesium to keep your magnesium levels enough to reduce any edema symptoms. You can also request your doctor for supplements that are more suitable for your particular symptoms and nursing routine.

    illustrated picture showing various natural food items with ample amount of magnesium
  • Soaking your feet in Epsom salt

    picture of a women soaking swollen feet in tub filled with water and epsom salt

    After a long nursing shift, an easy solution to get rid of your swollen feet and ankle is soaking them in Epsom salt (in warm water). Epsom salt has high concentrations of magnesium sulfate and improves blood circulation in your feet naturally. You can use this remedy with both warm and cold water according to your preference.

  • And here comes the Best Remedy!

    picture of a pair of aesthetic black compression socks

    The easiest and one of the most effective treatments for swollen feet and ankles is the use of knee high compression socks. These stockings apply a certain amount of pressure to your feet and prevent fluid accumulation in your feet. You can buy a pair online or from your local drug store.

What Are Compression Stockings

picture of buddy the elf laughing

 The durable elastic material used to make snug-fitting knee high socks, apply a calculated amount of continuous pressure to your limbs. This pressure reduces the diameter of veins and blood vessels and in turn, increases the blood pressure through them. The increased demand doesn’t allow accumulation of blood in the feet and forces it to move back towards the heart. 

picture of a leg wearing blue compression socks to show percentage of graduated compression

Compression hosiery comes in a variety of sizes, lengths, colors, and pressure. Compression sleeves are also the same as knee high graduated socks but lack the feet part. Knee high and thigh high graduated stockings are the most commonly used ones.

picture of different types of graduated thigh or knee high compression socks for legs

There are different categories of knee high graduated socks according to the pressure they apply on the leg usually measured in mm Hg. Most of the nurses prefer socks between 20 and 30 mm Hg. The main types of these socks are graduated compression socks (designed for the clinical purpose), knee high support stockings (for non-medical purposes), and knee high anti-embolism clothing (to reduce the risk of Deep Vein Thrombosis, DVT).

choosing the right graduated socks

In some cases, your physician may also advise you to wear a specific size and length of knee high graduated compression sock depending on your condition. In that case, you should strictly follow your doctor’s advice. You can use the socks most of the time and take them off only at night or when having a shower.   

Knee high compression stockings are highly effective in treating and reducing the effects of edema, venitis, thrombosis, blood clotting, varicose veins, improve lymphatic drainage, and reducing swelling of feet, ankles, and legs. Physicians recommend knee high compression socks and sleeves for mild swelling as well as chronic edema patients.

Knee Compression Socks for Nurses

picture of a women sitting outdoors wearing multicolored compression socks

The knee high compression socks are not just for the elderly, people with diabetes, and pregnant women. Compression hoses can be lifesavers for nurses. They can prevent or reduce stiffness, soreness, and swelling of your lower extremities. Compression therapy has been reported to be a useful technique against swollen feet and ankles of nurses.

illustration showing comparison of two feet to explain benefits of compression socks, increased blood flow, reduce blood clots, reduce swelling in feet.
  • Prevent Fatigue, Clotting, and Varicose

    illustration showing feet with varicose veins and feet with compression socks on, spider veins in nurse feet

    If you are a nurse, compression hosiery can be lifesavers. Knee high compression socks and knee high stockings are notable for reducing swelling, minimizing leg fatigue, and preventing soreness of feet and ankles. They can alleviate the pain and discomfort you face every day. Putting on your favorite pair of knee high compression socks every morning can prevent conditions like Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT), varicose (and spider) veins, lymphatic disorders, and clotting. It is hard to imagine how such a simple piece of clothing can improve your feet circulation and save you from a bad day at work.

    picture showing impact of Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT) on nurses feet due to excessive pressure on legs
  • Special Material Composition

    picture showing multiple compression socks with different colors and different material for nurse to wear

    The material and composition of knee high compression socks can be of importance for the nurses. Since the nature of the job requires an extra degree of cleanliness. There is no roaming for smelly knee high graduated socks carrying bacteria and other germs. The elastic material (used to apply a gradient and consistent pressure on the leg) must not capture or retain germs that may cause bad smell and can spread infections or disease. Mostly the materials used for knee high compression socks include polyester, nylon, spandex, elastic fibers, and artificial wool. 

    picture showing material types with which compression socks can be made, nylon compression socks, spandex compression socks, polyester compression socks, wool compression socks, bamboo compression socks, cotton compression socks

    Many individuals sweat a lot from their lower feet. If the graduated knee high stockings are not airy and breathable, they can result in extreme discomfort and sweating during the long shifts, and nurses usually have to endure day and night.

  • Part of the Uniform

    picture showing medical staff uniform with white lab coat, stethoscope

    Nurses’ attire (especially female nurses) is incomplete if it doesn’t include graduated knee high compression stockings. Many health care facilities have made it mandatory for all of their shift staff and nurses to wear knee high compression socks as a part of their uniform and daily work clothes.
    As a part of the uniform, mostly white-colored stockings offer a clean and sleek look for both male and female nursing staff. However, the color varies according to the dress code of the facility.

    nurse with white socks

    Patterned graduated knee high socks with colors can brighten your day and add a splash of colors to an otherwise plain and dull uniform. They can let you accessorize even when you are following a strict dress code.

  • Look stylish and feel comfortable

    Another essential part of the nursing profession is to stay fit and appear sharp. Nursing staff are a breath of fresh air for the patients that might be severely ill and are suffering from chronic diseases. Knee high compression socks complement the appearance of efficient medical personnel.

    picture of leg wearing stylish black compression socks

    These graduated knee high socks are usually pre-washed with non-hazardous fabric softeners and are comfortable for the feet. Some brands are producing their products out of natural cotton, wool, and silk that are 100 percent organic in nature.

  • Convenient Size

    The preferred Size for male nurses in knee-high, while the ladies, mostly use pantyhose or thigh-high stockings during working hours. Graduated knee high socks may not work well if your shift is longer than six hours, that’s why you need mid or high graduated knee high socks for better support.

    picture of leg showing different sizes of compression socks in mmHg

    Graduated compression works best for nurses and can improve feet circulation drastically, preventing swollen feet and ankles. The best compression size for daily wear is 15 to 20 mm Hg (mild or moderate compression). However, in case of symptoms of edema and swollen feet, 20-30 mmHg (firm compression) can also be used.

    picture of comparison chart of different sizes of compression stockings
  • Minimize Micro-tears in muscles and tissues

    picture of injured toes and sprained ankles showing inflammation and damage to muscles and tissue

    Nurses are also prone to muscular and tissue damage of legs and feet in some rare cases. Knee high compression socks can minimize the risk of such muscle and tissue damage during long shifts.

Should all Nurses Wear Graduated Support Hosiery?

Nursing as a profession can be stressful and physically tiresome on its own; you do need any additional nuisance of swollen feet and ankles. Using knee high compression socks is a natural and budget-friendly remedy to prevent all such issues.

picture showing medical utilities, two stethoscopes, a medical mask and black compression stockings of a nurse

With so many benefits and advantages of compression stocking aids, the use of knee high compression socks can bring about a healthy change in a nurse’s lifestyle. All nurses should have at least one pair of knee high compression socks or sleeves in their wardrobe that they can use whenever they feel the need to wear one.

picture of a nurse trying to wear white compression socks

However, regular use is much more useful for improved circulation and preventing swollen feet. You can also reap long term benefits by using knee high compression socks like avoiding blisters, skin cuts, and undesirable clotting on the feet.

picture of a nurse sitting in hospital wearing a pair of multicolored compression socks

Another exciting benefit of knee high compression socks is that they compensate for the overdue and sometimes lack necessary breaks during long shifts. Small breaks of 5 to 10 minute long do not seem much, but they can be a morale booster, a stress reducer, quick bathroom relief, and even a small talk opportunity with your colleague. Most importantly, these breaks can let you stretch your limbs and muscles. In short, they keep you from burning out altogether.

picture of a nurse wearing a pair of knee-high white compression socks

How to Wear Compression Socks

Although male and female nurses may choose different sizes, compression levels, and types of compression socks, the wearing method and technique are almost similar.

picture of funny proud baby meme for compression stockings

You can wear graduated knee high socks and sleeves daily at home or when leaving for the hospital or clinic for work. You can wear them while walking, sitting, and during your everyday work routine at the medical center. Compression hosiery is usually taken off during the night for sleep. You can put them back on again in the morning before leaving for work, just like ordinary socks.

picture of funny entertaining batman meme for compression stockings

If you are working on a night shift, you can wear them, but if you get a break for a nap or rest during the shift, it is best that you remove them and then go to sleep.

When you are wearing graduated knee high socks, they should smoothly conform to your body. When you are putting them on, make sure to remove any wrinkles and folds.

Here are some of the actions you might want to take care of when wearing them before leaving for the hospital:

picture of different kinds of compression stockings for arms and feet
  1. Try to wear them before you wear the bottom of your uniform or attire.
  2. Do not fold the graduated knee high socks from the top or the bottom.
  3. Please Do not use any Vaseline or similar product before putting them on as they can damage the graduated knee high sock material.
  4. Do not try to tug the graduated knee high sock from edges when putting them on, instead roll it smoothly.
  5.  Make sure there is a space equal to the width of two fingers below the knee and groin line and the top of the sock (depending on the type of hose you are wearing knee-high or thigh-high)


compression stockings funny meme, black guy stopping meme, stop painful swelling in nurse feet meme.

Knee high compression socks and clinically proven to relieve swollen feet, reduce pain, and soreness among healthcare professionals. They are also known to improve blood circulation as well as the general well being of the wearer. Nurses face physical and mental challenges every day and night during their shifts and are prone to swollen feet and ankles. Knee high compression socks are a convenient and effective remedy for them to ease their way through long and tiresome shift duties.