Can Wearing Compression Socks Be Harmful?

Compression socks are a popular remedy for a variety of ailments that affect the legs, such as pain and swelling. They can also help to prevent the development of deep vein thrombosis (DVT), treat existing DVT, and can aid in circulation problems. They’re commonly used by athletes, such as long distance runners, diabetics, individuals who stand for long periods of time while working, and those who are bedridden.

While they have proven to be beneficial for many, compression socks aren’t for everyone; in fact, those who suffer from certain conditions should avoid using them altogether. Furthermore, research has found that improper use of compression socks can be detrimental.

If you’re considering compression socks, it is always best to speak with your health care provider to ensure that they are safe to use, and that you are using them correctly. To learn more about the basics of compression socks, as well as those who should avoid using them, what type of issues they may cause, and how to make sure that you are wearing them properly, keep on reading.

Can Wearing Compression Socks Be Harmful?

What are Compression Socks?

Compression socks are a specialized type of hosiery that, as the name suggest, applies pressure to the calves and ankles. The gentle, continuous pressure that they apply helps to support the veins, and sends blood back up to the heart, which helps to prevent blood from pooling in the veins.

Compression socks can be purchased over-the-counter and they are also available by prescription. Prescription compression socks need to be fitted by a professional, and are usually recommended for people who suffer from certain medical conditions or who have a familial history of certain medical conditions.

How do Compression Socks Work?

In order to understand how compression socks work, you need to understand the basics of the circulatory system.

The circulatory system pumps fresh, oxygenated blood from the heart through the veins and out to the rest of the body. Once the oxygen has been distributed throughout the body, the blood that transported it is depleted, and it then travels back to the heart through a different set of veins. Once the blood arrives back to the heart, the oxygen is replenished, and the cycle is repeated.

In order to return back to the heart, the blood in the veins needs to work against gravity. As such, the veins and arteries in the legs can weaken as you age or when you are engaged in certain activities, such as standing for prolonged periods of times, and they can become inefficient. When this happens, compression socks can be helpful.

Because they apply pressure to the calves and ankles, compression socks help to support the veins in the legs, which in turn sends de-oxygenated blood back to the heart so that it can be re-oxygenated. As a result, compression socks can help to prevent a number of issues that affect the legs and the circulatory system; leg pain and swelling, and deep vein thrombosis (DVT), for example.

Can Wearing Compression Socks Be Harmful?

Are Compression Socks Harmful?

Generally speaking, compression socks are safe for most people to wear; however, they do need to be worn properly. When worn incorrectly, compression socks can be harmful. This increased risk of harm is largely due to wearing compression socks that do not fit properly; that is, they are too tight.

Some of the potential dangers that can be associated with wearing compression socks improperly include the following:

  • Reduced circulation. When worn properly, compression socks can support the veins and improve circulation; however, when they are worn improperly, they can cut off circulation. These socks are intended to apply continuous pressure to the calves and ankles, and when they do not fit properly – they are too tight – instead of increasing circulation, they can actually prevent blood circulation in the legs.
  • Bruising and chafing. Individuals who have dry or weak skin or who spend a lot of time in climates where the air is dry (such as an airplane), compression socks are more likely to scrape against the legs, which can lead to bruising and chafing. Those who have weakened skin barriers are more at risk of developing cuts, scrapes, and contusions, and if the compression socks do not fit properly (they are too tight), the risk of these injuries is greater.
  • Irritation and itching. If compression socks are too tight or if the skin on the legs is delicate, irritation and itching can occur. The socks can apply too much pressure to the legs, which can lead to redness, soreness, irritation, and itching.

To summarize, if worn incorrectly, compression socks can do more harm than good. Instead of improving circulation, they can impede circulation, and they can damage the skin, causing irritation, itching, bruising, and chafing.

How to Wear Compression Socks Safely

The best way to ensure that you are using compression socks safely is by seeking the guidance of a health care professional. Of course, this is true if you are in need of compression socks that have to be prescribed and properly fitted; however, you should also consider seeking the guidance of a health care professional if you are using compression socks that you purchased over-the-counter. A doctor can provide you with effective recommendations that will ensure you are using them properly, which will help to reduce the risk of developing issues.

When wearing compression socks, there are some best practices that you can use to help prevent the risk of problems:

  • Make sure the socks are fitted properly.
  • Follow the instructions that the manufacturer of the socks have provided or that your health care provider has recommended.
  • Keep a close eye on your skin. If you notice any changes, such as the development of redness, dryness, chafing, or dents, stop wearing the socks and speak to a health care professional, as you may be wearing them improperly.
  • To prevent the build-up of bacteria and dead skin cells in your compression socks, be sure to hand-wash and hang dry them on a regular basis. Avoid machine washing, as doing so can warp or damage the fabric, which can increase the risk of adverse effects.