Do Compression Socks Work?

Compression socks work to improve blood flow to the legs by gently squeezing the lower parts of the legs to work against gravity and encourage healthier blood flow. This helps prevent swelling, blood clots, aches, varicose veins and spider veins, especially after surgery or injury.

Doctors prescribe different types of compression stockings for different conditions. Socks vary in pressures from light to strong and also come in different lengths, from midcalf to knee-high to above the thigh. While available over the counter and online, the most-effective compression socks are prescription- or medical-grade compression socks, which may be covered under some health insurance or prescription benefit plans.

For greatest benefit, compression socks should be put on first thing in the morning, when leg swelling is least severe. Applying baby powder or cornstarch to the legs helps the socks to glide on. They should feel quite snug around the ankles, with gradually less pressure as the socks go higher on the legs. Wear the socks all day, every day to maximize benefit. Because the socks should be washed and dried each day, purchase more than one pair. Replace all socks every three to six months to maintain the highest level of support.