How Do Compression Socks Work and What Do They Do

Compression socks are some of the most recommended—and, in many situations, prescribed—medical tools available today. However, the socks don't receive the attention and use that their benefits warrant. There are countless individuals who could enjoy a plethora of health perks if they invested in and regularly wore an everyday level of compression socks.

Anyone who works in an office, full or part-time, should consider wearing compression socks, as should those whose job involves sitting or standing for extended periods. The reason is simple: long periods of sitting and standing increase the risk of developing deep vein thrombosis (DVT), the most common type of blood clot. DVT is serious on its own, and it can lead to other, more serious medical conditions.

The longer you sit without moving, the greater the chances of DVT—most often in a single leg. (Blood clots can be characterized by redness, leg swelling, hotness, pain upon squeezing, and difficulty moving the affected limb.) While blood is supposed to clot when cuts form, it's when the body becomes unable to remove naturally occurring clots that issues such as DVT and pulmonary embolism (a blood clot in the lungs that most often forms from a clot that's broken off from the leg, arm, or stomach) come about.

Employees Who Can Benefit from Compression Socks

Because of the risk associated with blood clots and sitting for extended periods, medical professionals have recently worked to raise public awareness of DVT during flights, where all one can do, is sit. We’ll discuss DVT later, but like travelers, multiple professionals can also benefit from compression socks. It'd be a bit much to list all these employees here, but generally speaking, those who often sit or stand for extended periods of time—more than two hours at once—and/or who suffer from other risk factors should wear compression socks. This includes nurses, flight attendants, office workers, writers, customer support team members, salespeople, and many more.

Although there isn't much public awareness for job-related DVT, those who sit in the workplace should be proactively concerned. The solution to this concern is straightforward: compression socks. Compression greatly reduces the risk of forming a blood clot and provides a number of other significant benefits to wearers. Unlike blood thinners, compression socks have almost no risks or side effects.

For those with concerns relating to compression socks and/or DVT, it’s best to consult a doctor and other medical professional when selecting the right solution..

Deep Vein Thrombosis Risk Factors

It's estimated that as many as 10% of fliers develop DVT during or immediately after flying. Many of these instances require medical attention. The longer the flight, the greater the risk of developing deep vein thrombosis—a point which has led many doctors to recommend travelers compression socks and/or a blood thinner if their flight is four or more hours in length.

Besides sitting or standing without moving (or not moving very much) for multi-hour periods, there are a number of risk factors that increase the chances of developing DVT. Those who have more than one risk factor working against them should purchase compression socks or, at the very least, ask a doctor about doing so. DVT risk factors include, but are not limited to:

  • Being over the age of 50
  • Being overweight or obese
  • Having had a blood clot in the past
  • Having a blood condition or a family history of blood clots
  • Being pregnant
  • Suffering from inflammation in the leg, both because of an injury or a medical condition
  • Suffering from Crohn's Disease, Ulcerative Colitis, or any other inflammatory bowel disease

The latter risk factor cannot be overstated. Otherwise healthy individuals who suffer from Ulcerative Colitis and especially those who suffer from Crohn's Disease are exponentially more susceptible to developing DVT and other blood clots. Researchers and doctors aren't yet certain why this risk is so pronounced, but awareness of these unexpected IBD dangers is slowly growing. Anyone who has Crohn's Disease or Ulcerative Colitis should consult their doctor about reducing the risk of blood clots, both with compression socks and otherwise.

Last but certainly not least, anyone can develop DVT. It's easy to picture a stereotypical DVT sufferer as an obese, elderly individual with a family history of clotting, but the truth is that athletes, frequent exercisers, young adults, and many others can develop DVT as well. Nobody is immune to DVT, and it's better to be safe than sorry.

Insurance Companies See the Advantages of Compression Socks

It's worth mentioning that many insurance companies will cover the entire cost of compression socks. Compression socks are worth their weight in gold based upon the DVT situations they prevent and the additional comfort they afford wearers. The result is a win-win medical tool for insurance policyholders and insurance companies.

Let's take a look at some information that potential compression sock wearers need to know!

Polka Dotted and Black Compression Socks

Compression Socks Don't Hurt

One of the most common misconceptions surrounding compression socks is that they "hurt" wearers. This couldn't be further from the truth, as the opposite is actually the case.

Compression socks sizing is based on one’s shoe size and calf circumference at the widest point of the calf. They function by applying therapeutic pressure to the leg that is tightest at the ankle and gradually less tight above so as to maximize circulation and minimize the chance of developing DVT. After a couple hours of getting used to compression socks, most users aren't actively aware that they're wearing them—though some report their legs feel more supported or move more freely and easily. (The uncomfortable sensation most people feel when attempting to "wake up" a "sleeping" arm or foot is similar to what it feels like to move a limb with poor circulation, except the individual suffering from poor circulation, in most instances, becomes so used to the feeling that it is considered normal.)

The Specific Perks of Compression Socks

The actual benefits of compression socks have already been specified, but just in case some especially on-the-fence readers are looking to have the information compiled in one place, compression socks:

  • Reduce swelling and water retention in legs
  • Improve circulation in legs and lower the risk of developing deep vein thrombosis
  • Make movement and navigation easier and less cumbersome
  • Reduce leg pain related to circulation issues

 Compression Black Socks

Common Compression Sock Questions and Answers

Q: What do I do if my feet get cold while I'm wearing compression socks?

A: Compression socks are offered in multiple fabrics. If you find your feet are frequently cold, you may opt for cotton or merino wool blends, which are warmer than the nylon or moisture-wicking nylon options.

Q: Do compression socks cause dry skin and irritation?

A: Calf and ankle skin can sometimes become dry and/or irritated from compression socks, depending on the weather during which the socks are worn and the specific medical characteristics of the wearer. An over-the-counter moisturizing lotion can soothe irritation and can be applied before and/or after wearing compression socks. (It is easier to put your socks on if you wait for the lotion to fully absorb into the skin first.)

Q: Do compression socks provide 100% protection from DVT?

A: Not quite. No medical condition is 100% preventable. But compression socks have almost no side effects and have been proven to dramatically reduce the risk of DVT developing.

Flowered and Black Compression Socks

Grey Compression Socks

Compression Sock Dos and Don'ts


  • Do remember that compression socks look similar to most regular socks, even if they are a bit tighter and serve an important purpose. Compression socks can be incorporated into numerous outfits. Compression socks are available in a variety of fabrics, colors, and styles.
  • Wearing compression socks to bed is entirely based on your comfort level. It is safe to sleep in the socks, but if you find it uncomfortable or experience any kind of pain, you should cease sleeping in compression socks immediately.


  • Don't wait until your legs are red and/or swollen to wear compression socks
  • Don’t pull compression socks up as far as they will go unless they are actual thigh high compression socks. Make sure the socks properly fit around the ankle and foot, where many blood clots start. Knee high compression socks should never be pulled over the knee.
  • Don't pick and choose the days you wear compression socks; be consistent
  • Don't think that compression socks are the "end-all" protection against DVT. If something doesn't look or feel right, don't hesitate to contact emergency services, especially if a blood clot has been had in the past

The Bottom Line

In conclusion, compression socks require little time and money to use, and provide unprecedented advantages. Anyone who sits or stands for multiple hours while working should consider seek medical advice and talk to a doctor about compression socks and/or trying a pair of everyday compression socks to help with blood flow.

Wearing compression socks is a simple and reliable way to reduce the chances of developing deep vein thrombosis in the leg(s). Additionally, wearing compression stockings can help avoid more serious medical conditions, including pulmonary embolism. Furthermore, compression socks can help you feel and move at your best, and there's something to be said for that as well.