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Compression stockings

You wear compression stockings to improve blood flow in your legs. Compression stockings gently squeeze your legs to move blood up your legs. This helps prevent leg swelling and, to a lesser extent, blood clots.

If you have varicose veins, spider veins, or have just had surgery, your doctor may prescribe compression stockings.

Wearing stockings helps with:

  • Aching and heavy feeling in legs
  • Swelling in legs
  • Preventing blood clots, especially after surgery or injury when you are less active

Alternate Names

Compression hose; Pressure stockings; Support stockings; Gradient stockings

Types of Compression Stockings

Talk to your doctor about what kind of compression stockings are right for you. There are many different compression stockings. They come in different:

  • Pressures, from light pressure to strong pressure
  • Lengths, from knee-high to the top of the thigh
  • Colors

Buying Compression Stockings

Call your health insurance or prescription plan.

  • Find out if they pay for compression stockings.
  • Ask if your durable medical equipment benefit pays for compression stockings.
  • Get a prescription from your doctor.
  • Find a medical equipment store where they can measure your legs so you get a good fit.

Wearing Compression Stockings

Wear your compression stockings all day. Your compression stockings should feel strong around your legs. You will feel the most pressure around your ankles and less pressure higher up on your legs.

Putting on Your Compression Stockings

  • Put on stockings first thing in the morning before you get out of bed. Your legs have the least amount of swelling early in the morning.
  • Hold the top of the stocking and roll it down to the heel.
  • Put your foot into the stocking as far as you can. Put your heel in the heel of the stocking.
  • Pull the stocking up. Unroll the stocking over your leg.
  • After the top of the stocking is in place, smooth out any wrinkles.
  • Do not let the stockings bunch up or wrinkle.
  • Knee length stockings should come to 2 fingers below the knee bend.

Compression Stockings Can Be Hard to Put on

  • If you use lotion on your legs, let it dry before you put on the stockings.
  • Use a little baby powder or corn starch on your legs. This may help the stockings slide up.
  • Put on rubber dishwashing gloves. Use your hands to adjust the stocking and smooth it out.
  • For open-toe stockings, use a special gadget to slide the stocking over your foot.

Wash Your Stockings Every Day

  • Wash the stockings each day with mild soap and water. Rinse and air dry.
  • If you can, have two pairs. Wear one each day. Wash and dry the other pair.
  • Replace your stockings every 3 to 6 months so that they maintain their support.

When to Call the Doctor

If your stockings feel too uncomfortable, call your doctor or nurse. Find out if there is a different kind of stocking that will work for you. Do not stop wearing them without talking to your doctor.

References

Cohen JM, Akl EA, Kahn SR. Pharmacologic and compression therapies for postthrombotic syndrome: a systematic review of randomized controlled trials. Chest. 2012 Feb;141(2):308-20.

Robertson L, Yeoh SE, Kolbach DN. Non-pharmacological interventions for preventing venous insufficiency in a standing worker population. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2012 Jan18;1:CD006345.

Updated: 8/25/2012

David C. Dugdale, III, MD, Professor of Medicine, Division of General Medicine, Department of Medicine, University of Washington School of Medicine. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M. Health Solutions, Ebix, Inc.


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