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Should I Wear Compression Socks?

What are compression socks

If you have varicose veins or one of the complications of varicose veins such as varicose eczema or phlebitis, it is very likely that your family doctor has suggested that you wear Medical Grade Compression Hosiery (often abbreviate to Medical Compression or Compression Hosiery). If you have had treatment for a leg ulcer, then your ulcer nurse will almost certainly have advised you to wear Medical Compression long-term.

So what is so special about Medical Compression?

Here are 7 Essential Facts About Medical Grade Compression Hosiery:

-1) What is Medical Grade Compression?

Below Knee Medical Grade Compression Hosiery
  • Medical Compression is graduated and Medical Grade Compression Hosiery exerts the greatest degree of compression (amount of squeeze) at the ankle, and the level of compression gradually decreases up the garment
  • They are often used to treat chronic (long term) venous disease and oedema (swelling due to fluid collection)
  • They are designed for people who are mobile (those who can walk about) and they are manufactured under strict medical and technical specifications, including consistency and durability, to provide a specific level of ankle pressure and graduation of compression
  • They vary in degree of compression measured at the ankle (class), length (below knee or thigh length), colour, and whether they enclose the whole foot or stop just before the toes (closed or open toe).
  • Stockings prescribed in the UK follow the British Standard for class of compression:
    • Class 1 stockings (light compression) exert a pressure of 14–17 mmHg.
    • Class 2 stockings (medium compression) exert a pressure of 18–24 mmHg.
    • Class 3 stockings (high compression) exert a pressure of 25–35 mmHg


-2) Flight Socks and Support Tights do not provide Medical Grade Compression.

Flight socks and support stockings or tights are a type of non-medical support hosiery. These are often used to provide relief of tired, heavy and aching legs. The compression (degree of squeeze) is much less than Medical Grade Compression and it is uniform. This means that the amount of squeeze is quite low and therefore less effective and it is not graduated – the degree of squeeze at the ankle is roughly the same as at the knee.

-3) TED stocking or antiembolism stockings do not provide Medical Grade Compression.

TED stockings do provide graduated compression but the degree of squeeze is much lower than Medical Grade Compression. TED stockings we designed for bedridden patients and they do not meet the stringent technical specifications of medical grade compression hosiery.

-4) Medical Grade Compression is more expensive than support stockings and flight socks.

This is because they need to meet the strict medical and technical specifications to provide precise graduation.

-5) Medical Grade Compression is more difficult to put on and take off than support socks or TED stockings.

The relatively high compression level (the degree of squeeze or tightness) also explains why they can sometimes be more difficult to get on and why they sometimes feel quite tight when they are first put on. For this reason, many people don’t like wearing them. Even when medical compression provides many health benefits, some people do not follow medical advice (doctors call this “noncompliance”).

-6) Medical Grade Compression is used in order to:

  • Reduce ache and swelling
  • Reduce the risk of deterioration of varicose veins
  • Reduce the risk of varicose vein recurrence after treatment
  • Reduce the risk of venous leg ulcer recurrence after healing
  • Prevent DVT
  • Treat Superficial Vein Thrombosis (Phlebitis)
  • Treat Varicose Veins in Pregnancy
  • To treat the leg complications of a DVT
ABPI before compression hosiery
Lucy Wicks and Natalie Pike Assess the Circulation after Measuring for Stockings


-7) Medical Grade Compression should be worn only on the advice of a HealthCare Professional.

Medical Compression provides the greatest amount of squeeze and need to be carefully measured and fitted. They are not suitable for people with a poor circulation (peripheral artery disease), those with neuropathy (a frequent problem among diabetics), those with some skin conditions, those with massive swelling or those with extreme deformity. If worn by the “wrong person” for whom they are not appropriate of if they are poorly fitting, they can cause complications.  The type and strength of stocking which best suits the individual is often a difficult judgement made between the healthcare professional and the individual. As part of the assessment for Medical compression, the circulation is checked at the ankle with a special Doppler probe as demonstrated by Natalie Pike and Lucy Wicks in the photograph above.


Medical Grade Compression Hosiery is a very important treatment option for those with vein problems and it provides a useful way of self-care after a clinical assessment by a healthcare professional.

If you would like more information about compression hosiery please get in contact and one of our advisors will be happy to help you.