Compression stockings or socks, also called support stockings, hose or socks, may reduce swelling in the lower legs by applying pressure that can help to prevent the tissues from absorbing fluid. That fluid, in the form of swelling, can cause pain. Compression stockings are designed to offer firmer support at the ankle and lesser support as the stocking rises up the leg.
Compression Stocking Size
The doctor who recommends compression stockings will suggest how high they should rise, usually to the knee or thigh. The stockings will have an mmHg (millimeters of mercury) compression rating to indicate the best use for the patient’s leg condition. A compression stocking with a rating of 10 to 20 mmHg would be suitable for mild swelling or mild varicose veins. A rating of 20 to 30 mmHg is for moderate swelling and varicose veins or as an aid to help prevent the recurrence of blood clots. The strongest compression stocking rating is 30 to 40 mmHg for patients with severe swelling, severe varicose veins, or other deep vein issues as indicated by a physician.
In addition to the compression strength rating, to obtain the proper size, take three measurements of your leg. (1) While seated, measure the distance from the back of your knee (at the crease) to the floor without wearing shoes. (2) Measure your ankle at the largest diameter. (3) Measure your calf at the largest diameter. Take these measurements to the drug store or medical supply store where you can match the measurements to a chart on the back of compression stocking packages to see what size you need.
Using Compression Stockings
Your doctor may advise you to put the stockings on before you get out of bed. In the morning, your swelling will be at its lowest. Some people have difficulty getting used to wearing compression stockings. Ask your doctor if you can use the stocking for a few hours a day as you build up to the duration the doctor recommends for daily use.
Because the stockings are tight, they can be a challenge to put on. Push your hand into the stocking, grab the heel, and turn the stocking inside-out just to the heel. Using your fingers or thumbs, work your toes into the stocking foot portion so the stocking heel is over your own heel.
Start gradually turning the stocking right side out as you continue to gently tug the stocking up your leg. Folds in the stocking should be removed by gently tugging above the fold.
How to Care for Compression Stockings
To remove the compression stocking, start at the top and begin to turn the stocking inside out until you get to the ankle. You will need to insert your fingers into the stocking to work it over the ankle and heel, and finally off your foot.
Wash compression stockings in hosiery bag in the washing machine or was the stockings by hand in the sink. Dry in a hosiery bag at low heat in a dryer or for hand washing, roll the compression stockings in a towel to remove water before laying the stockings flat to dry away from heat.
Ohio State University Medical Center: Compression Stockings
New York University Langone Medical Center: Support Hose