How Do Compression Socks Work for Swelling?

Edema, the medical term that is used to describe swelling that occurs as a result of fluid retention in the tissues of the body, is a common condition. In fact, large percentages of people experience edema at some point in their lifetime. Sometimes, the condition is temporary, and others, it is long-lasting; either way, the condition is associated with swelling and discomfort, and in severe cases, the pain and swelling can become so debilitating that it can reduce mobility and cause a host of other health problems, such as kidney disease and liver damage.

While edema can affect any part of the body, it is most common in the lower extremities; the legs, ankles, and feet. Compression socks are one of the most common treatments recommended for edema of the lower extremities. If you are suffering from pain and swelling in your legs, ankles, and feet, you may be wondering why compression socks are recommended as a remedy. Read on to find out how compression socks help to treat swelling and whether or not giving them a try would be worth your while.

How Do Compression Socks Work for Swelling?

What Are Compression Socks?

Before we explain how compression socks can help to alleviate swelling in the legs, ankles, and feet, let’s first discuss what compression socks are. While they may look similar to traditional socks, compression socks have a very different function and purpose. As the name suggests, they are designed to compress the legs, ankles, and feet. The pressure they apply can vary, and it can be consistent, or gradated, meaning that it can be stronger at the bottom of the leg, and become lighter toward the top of the leg.

The pressure that compression socks apply to the legs is intended to help reduce swelling - edema. In fact, they are commonly recommended as a way to manage the symptoms that are associated with edema, including the swelling and the pain. Compression socks can be purchased over-the-counter, or they can be prescribed by a doctor. Those that are prescribed by a doctor need to be fitted by a professional, and generally, the deliver greater pressure than over-the-counter varieties. The lightest level of compression is 8 to 15 mmHg, and the highest level is 30 to 40 mmHG. These numbers indicate the intensity of the pressure that compression socks apply to your legs, ankles, and feet.

How Do Compression Socks Reduce Swelling?

So, now that you know what compression socks are, let’s explore how they help to reduce swelling. There are several ways that both over-the-counter and prescription compression socks can help to minimize the swelling and discomfort that is associated with edema of the lower extremities.

Increased Circulation

Edema in the legs, ankles, and feet largely occurs as a result of poor circulation. Age and standing for prolonged periods of time can negatively impact the efficiency of circulation in the legs, as the veins and arteries in the legs have to work against gravity in order to pump de-oxygenated blood back up to the heart. Other fluids can also have a hard time traveling out of the lower extremities, and when that happens, the fluid gets trapped and accumulates in the tissues that lie in the ankles, feet, and legs. The result of that accumulated fluid is swelling and pain, which can be mild to moderate; though it can also be extreme.

The pressure that compression socks apply to the lower extremities helps to keep blood moving through the legs. It helps to prevent fluid from building up in the legs, too. The gently squeeze the legs, ankles, and feet, which encourages blood and fluid to flow from your legs and back up to your heart, which can help to prevent blood and fluid from pooling in the veins and tissues; hence why these socks can help to reduce swelling.

The Improve Vein Function

Compression socks may be able to alter the diameter of the major veins in your legs. The pressure these socks apply to the legs helps to improve blood flow, and improved blood flow can help to increase the velocity and blood flow. The increased velocity and blood flow that these compression socks can help to decrease the diameter of blood flowing at one time, which can help to reduce the need to expand the size of the veins in the legs, and thus, reduce swelling.

In addition to reducing swelling, compression socks can also help to minimize the pain that is often associated with leg swelling. The pain occurs as a result of increased pressure on the veins and the tissues. The greater the pressure, the more pain you are going to experience. Since compression socks help to improve circulation, improve vein function, and prevent blood and fluid accumulation in the legs, ankles, and feet, they can help to reduce pain, as well as swelling.

How Do Compression Socks Work for Swelling?

Compression Sock Tips

In order to help increase the benefits that compression socks can have on swelling, here are some tips that you can use to ensure that you are wearing them properly:

  • Avoid rolling or folding the compression socks into a bunch, as this can alter the material the socks are made of, which can make them too tight and when the socks are too tight, they can reduce blood circulation rather than help it.
  • Make sure your compression socks fit properly. Speak to your health care provider to find out what type of socks you should use, as you may need to get a prescription. If over-the-counter compression socks will suffice, make sure to ask your doctor what type to wear and to inspect them to ensure that they fit you properly.
  • Put your compression socks on as soon as you wake up, if possible, as the swelling in your legs will be at its lowest point when you first wake up, which will make it easier to put the socks on. The longer you wait to put the socks on, the more your legs will swell, and the more your legs swell the harder putting them on will be.