Do Compression Socks Really Work?

Advertisers are promoting compression socks as the newest best thing for dealing with tired, achy feet. Is all the hype true? The truth is, doctors have prescribed compression stockings for decades to help combat problems related to poor blood flow in the lower extremities. 

But there are a few things you might want to know before you buy a pair.

Michael Gioscia, MD, is a leading vascular surgeon who specializes in conditions related to your vein health and circulatory system. He leads the team at the Vein Institute of Westchester in White Plains, New York.

Dr. Gioscia is well-known and greatly respected for his expertise in using minimally invasive treatments to resolve vascular conditions such as varicose veins, venous insufficiency, and other issues linked to the effects of poor circulation.

During your initial consultation, Dr. Gioscia takes the time to fully evaluate your leg veins and devise the most effective treatment plan. This isn't a one-fix-for-all practice. Dr. Gioscia has extensive experience in all possible solutions.

Read more from this top-rated specialist about the pros and cons of compression socks.

The basics of compression socks

Compression socks or stockings are designed to promote better circulation in your feet, ankles, and legs by providing varying levels of pressure against your skin. This helps push blood back toward the heart and can prevent the swelling and discomfort related to weakened or damaged vein walls and valves.

Doctors may also recommend them to reduce swelling in your legs during pregnancy, help prevent the formation of blood clots, and provide circulatory support after surgery. Athletes compression garments such as knee sleeves and elbow sleeves in hopes of improving performance by increasing blood flow to muscles and joints.

Are there different types of compression socks?

We generally divide compression socks/stockings into three types, which differ according to the level of compression they offer and the conditions they’re designed to treat.

Graduated compression stockings

These stockings offer the strongest level of compression at the ankle, which gradually decreases toward the top of the product. They often require custom fitting and are designed to meet certain medical specifications.

We may recommend below-the-knee stockings to help reduce fluid buildup and swelling in the lower legs. Thigh-high stockings are generally used to help prevent swelling as well as sudden drops in blood pressure (orthostatic hypotension).


Anti-embolism compression stockings help prevent deep vein thrombosis (DVT) or blood clots. They’re typically prescribed for patients who are sedentary for long periods, such as when convalescing after an illness or surgery and/or during long trips.

Non-medical support socks/stockings

These compression socks are available in stores and online and offer a minimal amount of uniform compression. They promise to help relieve aching and discomfort in your feet but don’t offer the compression benefits of medical-grade support stockings.

Are compression stockings difficult to wear?

Many of our patients find medical-grade compression stockings difficult to put on and take off at first. And when not fitted appropriately or when worn for longer than recommended, compression stockings can cause:  

Thus, we recommend you check with us first if you’re considering compression socks/stockings to relieve symptoms related to varicose veins or venous insufficiency or to prevent blood clots.

Medical-grade compression stockings can help temporarily relieve symptoms related to poor circulation in your legs and feet but aren’t designed to address the underlying condition or improve the appearance of varicose veins.

Schedule an evaluation at the Vein Institute of Westchester for more information about compression socks or the many effective, minimally invasive treatments available that offer long-term solutions rather than short-term relief for your circulatory issues.

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