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Compression Stockings: How to Use Them

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Specially fitted compression stockings are tight at the feet with a gradually looser fit on the leg. Because there are different types, it's best to use the kind that your doctor recommends and that work best for you.

Compression stockings:

  • Help improve blood flow.
  • Help keep blood from pooling in the legs.
  • May help prevent blood clots from forming in deep leg veins.
  • Help relieve symptoms and prevent problems caused by things like varicose veins, skin ulcers, and deep vein thrombosis.
  • Will help the most if you wear them every day while you're awake, especially while you're on your feet.

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Compression stockings are a type of sock you wear to help prevent blood from pooling in your legs. They may help prevent blood clots in deep leg veins.

Compression stockings:

  • Are tightest at the foot. The tightness gradually loosens as the stocking fits higher on the leg.
  • Cover the leg from the arch of your foot to just below or above your knee. Or they cover the leg like panty hose.
  • Can be purchased from a medical supply store or a drugstore with a doctor's prescription. They may cost between $60 and $100 a pair (panty hose style are more expensive). They usually need to be replaced after 4 to 6 months of regular use.
  • Are available without a prescription, and you can buy them online. If you get them online, be sure to buy the right size and compression level recommended by your doctor.

Test Your Knowledge

Compression stockings are tight and help improve blood flow in the legs.


Compression stockings help keep your blood moving. This is important to prevent and treat several problems, including:

  • Venous skin ulcers. Compression stockings help keep blood from pooling in your lower legs, which can cause skin to break down and form open wounds.
  • Varicose veins. Compression stockings may relieve symptoms and slow the progress of varicose veins.
  • Deep vein thrombosis. Compression stockings may help prevent blood clots from forming in your lower legs. They're also used to help relieve swelling and pain.

Test Your Knowledge

Wearing compression stockings may help with symptoms of varicose veins and may prevent venous skin ulcers, because the stockings help keep blood moving in your legs.


Compression stockings can be a part of your daily routine. If they fit right, they should be snug but comfortable.

It's best to wear them all the time, unless you are bathing or sleeping. Plan on replacing your stockings every 4 to 6 months.

At first, putting on a pair of compression stockings can be tricky. But with some practice, you'll find what works for you. Here are some tips:

Before you put them on

  • Hand wash new stockings after you buy them. It will make them more flexible and easier to put on. Consider buying a second pair, if you can afford it. That way, you'll have a clean pair to wear while you wash the other.
  • Put a dressing on any open wound before putting on the compression stockings.
  • Keep your stockings by your bed, so you can put them on when you first get up.

To put them on

  • Do it early in the morning, when you have the least swelling in your legs.
  • Sit in a chair with a back. This gives you something to lean against as you put on the stockingsClick here to see an illustration..
  • Hold the top of the stocking with one hand. Then with your other hand, reach inside the stocking and push your arm all the way in until you reach the end and can grab the toe.
  • When you have a firm grip on the toe, pull your hand back up through the stocking, turning it inside out, but leaving the tips of your fingers in the toe of the stocking.
  • Put your toes into the toe of the stocking, and gently roll and slide it back over your heel. Then use your finger tips or palms to slowly roll and slide the stocking all the way up your leg.
  • Be careful not to grab and pull at the top of the stocking, because that can cause it to rip or tear.

If you have trouble

  • Wear rubber gloves to help you grip the fabric, if you need to.
  • Try a silk "slip sock" if you use toeless stockings. It helps the stocking slide over your foot, and then pulls off through the toe after the stocking is on. You can get one at a medical supply store.
  • Try a "stocking butler." It's a metal device that holds the stocking open while you step into it. Try one before you buy one, though. They can be hard to use.
  • Talk to your doctor or the certified fitter at your medical supply store, especially if you have a disability that makes it hard to put the stockings on.
  • Call your doctor if your toes get numb or painful or turn dark while you are wearing compression stockings.

Test Your Knowledge

Compression stockings should be snug but comfortable enough to wear all day.


Now that you have read this information, you are ready to take an active part in your treatment by wearing compression stockings every day.

Talk with your doctor or a certified fitter at a medical supply store about any problems you have with your compression stockings. The risk of going without compression treatment is too great to neglect wearing them.

When you visit your doctor, take along your stockings and anything you use to help you put them on.

If you have questions about this information, print it out and take it with you when you visit your doctor. You may want to use a highlighter to mark areas or make notes in the margins of pages where you have questions.

ByHealthwise Staff
Primary Medical ReviewerE. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine
Specialist Medical ReviewerAnne C. Poinier, MD - Internal Medicine
Last RevisedAugust 17, 2012

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