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Healthy Living Blog

Do Compression Stockings Work?


If you’re suffering from tired aching legs, swelling of the legs, chronic venous insufficiency or varicose veins, your doctor may advise wearing compression stockings.


Stockings? Can a pair of hosiery really fix anything?

With all of the advancements in the world of medicine, no one could blame you for wondering if compression stockings are really an effective treatment method.

First, let’s take a short walk back in time. Modern day compression stockings can be traced all the way back to 5000 BCE when cave drawings were made in the Sahara featuring soldiers with bandaged legs.

What these ancient people knew, apparently, is that compression can help heal the body.

Specifically, compression stockings are designed to apply pressure on the veins of the leg. The greatest amount of pressure is at the ankles and the least is at the top of the stockings. This pressure helps to force blood upward, against gravity, back to the heart, which relieves pain and chronic swelling.

The Secret is in the Fit

In order for compression stockings to do their job, they have to fit properly.

This isn’t like picking up a pair of nylons at the store down the street or ordering a new pair of tights online. Compression stockings must fit perfectly—both to ensure that they work and to prevent discomfort.

To accomplish that, you have to have your legs measured, either at your doctor’s office or at a medical supply store. A trained fitter will take various measurements of your legs and then recommend the right pair for your body.

Compression stockings should not be painful to wear. They should also not bunch up or slide down. If any of these things are happening to you, it’s a sign that your stockings do not fit properly.

When to Wear Compression Stockings

The other important factor in the success of your stockings is how often you wear them. Unless your doctor advises differently, stockings don’t need to be worn while you’re sleeping, but they should be put on as soon as you wake up and be kept on all day.

Because they can be tricky to put on (and get off), it’s a good idea to wear donning gloves like these from Amazon. They make the task easier and help prevent snags, which is critical when you’re paying as much as $100 per pair (sometimes, but not always, covered by insurance).

Compression Gear for Sports

You may have noticed, in recent years, that many runners have taken to wearing knee-high compression socks and you’ll also see basketball players, as well as other athletes, wearing compression sleeves.

According to a Time magazine article, this craze was sparked way back in 2001 when basketball player Allen Iverson wore a compression sleeve for the first time—and scored 51 points that night.

The concept is similar to compression stockings. The compression increases blood circulation, which delivers more oxygen to muscles and also aids in recovery time.

But the Time story (as well as various studies) concludes that, while compression stockings are certainly helpful for certain medical conditions, it still hasn’t been proven that they can boost athletic performance.

The bottom line? If you’re an athlete, there’s no harm in giving compression gear a try to see if it works for you. But if you’re suffering from medical conditions like chronic venous insufficiency, compression stockings aren’t a matter of debate. They’re a time-tested treatment that works.