How to use compression socks in the correct way

Most clinics will provide you with information regarding how to wear your socks correctly, how long to wear them each day, when to take them off, how to care for them, when to replace them, recommended daily body hygiene practices while using compression socks and how to recognize signs and symptoms of potential complications. However, if you desire to purchase your compression apparel online or over the counter, here are some helpful tips on where to buy them and make sure you are not using your socks in the wrong way.

Where to buy them

Compression socks can be bought at medical supply stores, pharmacies and from online retailers. The price of compression socks can range anywhere from 10 to 100 dollars depending on the level of compression, the fabric used to make the socks, length, durability and manufacturing standards. Compression socks made under strict medical and technical standards will be more expensive than those whose standards are left to the discretion of the manufacturer which is why it is useful to get a prescription from your doctor if you wish to purchase medicated compression stockings so your insurance coverage can pay for them. Socks made of opaque and high tech cotton/wool blends will be more expensive than those made from sheer fabrics. You may want to buy your socks from retailers who have flexible return/exchange policies in case you purchase the wrong size.

How to put them on

Keep your nails short and avoid wearing rings when putting on your socks to prevent tears, runs or snags in your compression apparel. It could be useful to purchase a pair of rubber gloves to help you hold on to your stockings as you put them on, take them off or adjust them. The gloves could come in handy if you do not wish to keep taking off your jewellery or would like to keep long nails. Put on your socks early in the morning when your leg is less likely to be painful or swollen. Make sure your leg(s) are dry before putting on your socks. Any wetness will make your socks stick to your skin. It is advisable to apply non-oil based moisturisers to your legs or moisturise your skin at night, or when you take off your socks as oil-based creams, petroleum products and ointments break down fibres in the fabric, reduce the level of compression and ultimately shorten the life of your socks. Consider applying talcum powder to your leg to make the socks go on more smoothly. If you are uncertain about putting on the socks by yourself, consider having a family member or friend help you put them on. If you have not worn your compression socks for a day or two, it might prove incredibly challenging to put them on, especially if your leg continues to swell in those days. Although you will not be as comfortable as when you are wearing compression socks, you may need to wrap your leg as instructed by your health care provider.

Step 1. Reach inside one of the socks with the palm of your hand and grab the portion above the heel. Keep holding on to this part while you pull your arm out of the sock until your thumb pops out. This action will turn the leg part of the sock inside out.

Step 1

Step 2. Slowly stretch the fabric as wide as you can and pull it over your foot and heel. Smooth out the material as you go up the length of your leg. Make sure you hook your heel and turn it right side out. If you are putting on a leotard/ thigh high compression stockings, stand up and continue pulling the material over your thighs, hips and up to your waist, while ensuring that the material is smooth and the seams are straight. Do not proceed to roll over knee-high compression socks over your knee or roll down thigh-high compression stockings if they seem too long. Adjust knee-high stockings downwards if you notice the fabric is bulging behind your knee.

Step 2

Step 3: Slowly release the fabric of your sock as you slowly pull your sock up to your knee. Smooth out any wrinkles and creases, especially at the ankle and behind the knee. You will need to leave two fingers between the bend of your knee and the top of the stocking as you are doing this. Do not pull up your socks up by the band as this may tear the fabric.

Step 3

How to remove your compression socks

Fold your socks down and keep folding it until it gets stuck, usually just above the ankle. Use your thumb like a shoehorn. Stick it down the back of your sock and pop the sock off your heel. The rest of your sock should be easy to slide right off your foot.

Removing compression socks.

How to wash them

Talk to your doctor about the appropriate soap brands for washing compression socks in your country.  If you did not use a prescription to purchase your compression socks, you could hand wash your socks using a small amount to commercial laundry detergent that does not contain bleach or fabric softener as these products can damage your compression socks.

Hand wash in warm water, preferably in temperature similar to that used to hand wash dishes. The warm water will maintain the fabric and prevent dead skin cells and oils from building up in your socks.

Rinse well with water. Then squeeze the socks gently to remove excess water. Do not wring, twist or roll in a towel as the fibres from the towel can get lodged in the sock and break it down.

Hang your socks to dry away from direct sunlight or heat or dry them in the dryer on the delicate cycle at low temperatures.

Additional care

It may be useful to wear loose-fitting regular socks over your compression socks to prevent an accidental tear.

Do not cut or pull on any loose or hanging threads as this may unravel the knots in the fabric and reduce the effectiveness of compression.

Swab silicone bands in your thigh high stockings at least once a week with some rubbing alcohol to remove body oils and lint.

Wear slippers or shoes when wearing your compression socks to prevent deterioration of the foot part of your compression socks.

Compression socks are sold in pairs, to maximise usage, you could wear one sock on the leg with the complications and reserve the other to use after the first one deteriorates.

How long can you use them?

It is essential to wear your compression socks consistently and replace them regularly for lasting therapeutic effects. If compression socks were prescribed to you as part of therapeutic intervention, talk to your doctor about how long you should wear them. With proper care, a single pair of compression socks can last up to six months, after which it will need replacing. Nonetheless, you should take new measurements and replace your compression socks if you have lost or gained more than 15 pounds since your last purchase.