Can compression socks reduce swelling?

Urbane Stripe 15-22 mmHg | Lunatik Athletiks

Swelling can strike at any age. Even if you’re in perfectly good health, you may experience random bouts of swelling in your feet, legs, hands, or arms. And if you have certain preexisting conditions like arthritis, diabetes, hypothyroidism, and even allergies, you are far more likely to experience swelling on a regular basis.

While swelling is not always a cause for alarm, it can be very uncomfortable. Nobody wants to go about their day while dealing with inflammation, swelling, tenderness, and even difficulty moving around. Fortunately, you don’t need to let swelling control your life. There are various ways to use compression to subdue swelling and bring about a more comfortable physical state for yourself.

Since swelling of the feet and ankles is so common, compression socks have become one of the most popular ways to fight back against persistent swelling. However, it’s important to remember that you should always talk to your doctor if you’re experiencing unexplained swelling or if you want to make compression socks part of your health regimen. In the meantime, you’ve probably got a lot of questions about compression socks and what they can actually do for you.

For example, do compression socks really help with swelling? Why is compression good for swelling? How does it work? Finally, where can you get high-quality compression socks at affordable prices?

In today’s guide, we will answer all of these questions and more, but first, let’s take a look at some of the most common swelling conditions that can be treated with compression socks:

Common Swelling Conditions Where Compression Socks Are Used

There are many different conditions that can cause swelling, and while many of them require additional treatment methods, they can frequently benefit from compression socks. Here are just a few of the most common swelling conditions that go hand in hand with compression sock use:

  • Varicose Veins - Varicose veins are generally not an indication of an underlying health problem. For most people, they are simply an aesthetic issue, as the condition is notable for the appearance of enlarged, curving veins in the legs. Compression socks can help to reduce the size of varicose veins and also treat any swelling that may accompany the condition.
  • Lymphoedema - Lymphoedema is a condition in which the vessels of your lymphatic system become blocked. This causes a buildup of lymphatic fluid that, in turn, leads to uncomfortable swelling, particularly in the feet, ankles, and legs. Compression socks work to encourage the flow of lymphatic fluid and naturally drain buildups to reduce swelling.
  • Blood Clots - While compression socks cannot dislodge an existing blood clot, they can reduce the risk of experiencing future blood clots by easing blood flow in the feet and legs.
  • Pregnancy - Pregnant women often experience swelling in the extremities, especially the feet and ankles. This swelling can make pregnancy even more uncomfortable, while also reducing mobility. Fortunately, compression socks offer a great way to alleviate swelling brought on by pregnancy.
  • Diabetes - One of the most common symptoms of diabetes is poor blood flow. When blood isn’t circulating fast enough, it can cause blood and other fluids to pool (a condition known as edema), which leads to swelling. Compression socks offer one of the simplest and most effective solutions to reduce diabetes-related swelling of the feet and ankles.
  • Deep Vein Thrombosis - Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT) is a specific type of blood clot that occurs in one of the deep veins of the leg. Doctors typically prescribe a combination of medication and compression wear to help speed up blood flow, dislodge the blockage, and reduce the risk of future clots.
  • Injury - Whether you twist your ankle or bang your shin into the corner of a desk, you’re likely to experience some degree of swelling. While most injury-related swelling will go away on its own, you can speed up the healing process and reduce discomfort by wearing compression socks.

How Compression Socks Help With Swelling

Compression socks work so well because there is no special trick or complex process behind them. They simply apply constant pressure to swollen areas. Not only does this naturally encourage swelling to lessen with time, but it also increases the flow of blood and lymphatic fluids. These combined actions reduce swelling by removing built-up fluid and preventing future blood clots.

If you have a particular medical condition that is causing the swelling, your doctor may prescribe medication or other treatments to use in tandem with compression socks. However, for mild to moderate swelling that is not caused by a serious or life-threatening condition, compression socks are often enough on their own.

How Long Does It Take Compression Socks To Help Swelling?

The timeline for wearing compression socks varies from person to person. It can also be greatly affected by the condition or situation that’s causing your swelling. For example, pregnancy may cause swelling off and on for the better part of 9 months. This means that you may need to wear compression socks every day or every few days to effectively combat swelling. That said, you can often see reduced swelling within a few hours or a few days of putting the socks on.

On the other hand, if you sprain your ankle, you may be able to wear compression socks and feel the results almost immediately. The pressure provided by compression socks often causes a certain degree of alleviation within seconds, but this doesn’t mean that the work is completely done. In the vast majority of cases, you’ll need to wear your compression socks for a few hours to help speed up blood flow and reduce swelling. And if the compression socks are part of a long-term treatment prescribed by your doctor, you’ll want to discuss the exact timeline and expected outcomes with your doctor.

The Best Compression Socks For Swelling

Just as the timeline for reducing swelling can differ from person to person, the right compression socks for you might not be the same as they would be for someone else. As previously mentioned, you should always consult with your doctor before adding compression socks to your treatment plan. But if you’re simply shopping for compression socks to reduce mild to moderate swelling, you’ll want to consider various factors, including:

  • Compression Level - The compression level is one of the most important factors when looking for compression socks for swelling. You may want low-pressure socks (8-15 mmHg) for mild swelling, or higher-pressure socks (20 mmHg and above) for ongoing medical conditions.
  • Style & Size - Not all compression socks or compression stockings are exactly alike. Some only apply pressure to the feet and lower ankles, while others apply graduated pressure from the feet all the way to the upper thigh. Additionally, certain styles are better for people who want to live active lifestyles, while others are best for people who prefer to remain sedentary as they recover.
  • Comfort Level - Finally, you’ll definitely want to consider your comfort when shopping for good compression socks. High pressure might sound like a good thing, but not if it causes you more discomfort. Be sure to balance the compression level and style so that you can continue to do day-to-day activities without unnecessary pain.