Best Compression Socks for Nurses
In addition to proper footwear, compression socks are incredibly useful for anyone working in a profession that requires constant standing or sitting, especially when in a stationary position. However, after doing some research online, you may notice that most information provided revolves around sport performance, especially running. While this isn't the application we're after, knowing about the general application of compression socks can help with understanding their function, and ultimately to choosing a pair that works for you.
In this article, we will provide lots of information about compression socks, why nurses in particular benefit from wearing compression socks, and we will also provide our top picks for the best compression socks for nurses, hopefully making it easier on you to make your own informed decision.
For those in a rush, we'll get straight to the point and start with our reviews of the best compression socks for nurses. If you would like to learn more about compression socks in general, please check out the information below our reviews.
Review - Best Compression Socks for Nurses
Average Customer Rating
Individual Reviews - Compression Socks for Nurses
These are high quality compression socks designed specifically for nurses. They don't necessarily offer the highest value, as you purchase them in singular pairs (rather than an assorted pack), but nevertheless, they're good compression socks that are highly recommended by many nurses and other medical professionals.
The Nursemates women's compression socks could also be considered a good starter compression sock. The reason we say this is because the graduated compression is rather low (12-14 mmHg), and is actually technically considered to be "mild". This means they won't apply as much pressure on your ankles and legs compared with other compression socks that we reviewed. Therefore, if you're not sure whether or not you will find compression socks to be comfortable enough for constant use, these will be a great indicator.
Overall, we would recommend these compression socks to any nurse or nursing student, as well as anyone who wants to try compression socks starting with a lower pressure. There are many different design available, they are made from high-quality materials and design, and while you only get one pair, the cost is still low enough that it can make them worthwhile to try out.
These Dr. Motion compression socks offer great value, especially if you're looking for ore than one pair and an assortment of colors. They also come in a more standard professional look, so they are also a conservative option if you think you may wear them elsewhere. In this individual review, what we talk about will apply to both the women's and men's socks, as they're essentially the same, they just differ in terms of size and design.
The Dr. Motion compression socks are probably the most similar to normal socks, as they provide pressure that's considered to be very light (8-15 mmHg). If you are looking for compression socks on the guidance of your doctor and need something substantially tight, these probably aren't the ones, but if you're simply looking for a bit of added support to help you get through your shift and possibly prevent some venous issues down the road, then they can be quite a nice selection.
One of the things we really like about these Dr. Motion assorted packs are the value. The fact that you receive 6 pairs for a very reasonable price makes them especially good compression socks for nursing students who are on a budget and want to explore ways to make their shifts better. Plus, the more standard design makes them quite versatile with many different outfits, not just scrubs or athletic apparel.
Overall, we would recommend these compression socks to anyone looking for more than one pair, a variety of colors, a reasonable cost, and for those who only need a little bit of added pressure. To clarify, you will still feel the difference from normal socks, it's just on the lower end of pressure by compression socks standards.
Theoretically, these compression socks were designed with athletic performance in mind, but they can be used in any situation, especially since multiple color schemes and designs are available. These are knee-high compression socks that have a very sleek appearance, which is due in part to the anatomical fit.
One important characteristic to note about the A-Swift compression socks is the 20-30 mmHg pressure, which is starting to trend towards the upper end of compression, a pressure often desired by training athletes. However, for the general population, this can still be a suitable pressure especially if your doctor has recommended a medium pressure, or you simply prefer the feeling of it and find you're in less pain or discomfort after a shift.
While these are great compression socks overall, we're still unsure if they are good compression socks for nursing students who are on a budget, as we haven't directly testes the longer term durability. However, they are made with high-quality materials and athletes in mind, suggesting that they meant to stand up to some of the harshest punishment.
Some bonus features include silver yarn anti-bacteria fabric, which is now being incorporated into lots of different athletic apparel. For example, Lululemon has incorporated this material into lots of their athletic clothing that is worn directly over the skin (e.g. underwear). The A-Swift compression socks also come with anti-odor and anti-static material that deodorizes and helps keep you dry.
Overall, we would recommend the A-Swift compression socks to anyone who needs a single pair that provide medium-high pressure, and anyone who is willing to pay a little more for high-quality materials.
These are clean and classy knee-high compression stockings designed for women. While they aren't designed specifically for nurses, they offer a fairly unique construction that can be favored by many individuals, whether you're a clinical nurse or work in an office setting. The pressure provided by these stocking is considered mild-medium, which falls into the more common pressure range.
These compression stockings come in five different colors: beige, black, brown, burgundy, and gray. In addition to the graduated compression, these stockings have thicker material at the heel area to provide extra support and comfort when standing. They have elastic bands at the top to prevent slipping and are designed to minimize any potential skin irritation or marking on the skin. There is also extra space a tthe toe if you prefer to have that room to move around freely without restriction, but this just comes down to personal preference.
Overall, we would recommend these compression socks to any woman looking for mild-medium applied pressure, as well as a more clean and classy look than many other available compression stockings. The Fytto Style 1020 compression stockings are quite cheap, so they're also good for those who just want to try one pair without breaking the bank.
These are full-on pantyhose with the added feature of providing gradual compression just like any pair of compression socks would. The provide 15-20 mmHg pressure, which is considered mild-medium (or also "moderate"). This is a very common pressure range and can be suitable for a wide variety of individuals, not just nurses.
While we usually don't recommend wearing pantyhose under scrubs, if that's what you're comfortable in, then go for it. Where these may really come in handy are for those medical professionals who often work in an office setting or in a clinic that requires a more formal dress code.
These compression pantyhose are made in the USA in an FDA-approved facility and are made with 80% nylon and 20% spandex. The patented zonal compression is a nice feature as well as the reinforced heel and toe areas, while still providing an optimal thickness for the majority of shoes. The material is designed with micro-scaled compressive knit patterning, which allows it to be durable enough to confidently wash in a laundry machine.
Overall, these are an excellent option for anyone looking for pantyhose, but also would like the compression you normally see in compression socks. While these pantyhose are designed with high-quality materials and are machine-washable, you still need to be careful when putting them on. Compression apparel can sometimes be a little more difficult to put on, and while these are high-quality, it's still possible to develop large runs like any other pantyhose, so just try and be careful with them.
What are compression socks?
Compression socks resemble normal socks that are a little longer, but where they specialize is with varying tightness. Typically, a compression sock will be tightest around the ankle and gradually loosens further up the leg. The idea is to help facilitate proper circulation in the lower extremities and prevent pooling of the blood in the feet, ankles, and lower legs. Most compression socks go up to about knee level or a little lower, but you can find shorter or longer compression socks depending on your own personal preferences.
What are compression stockings?
Compression stockings are essentially the same thing as compression socks in terms of function, but they differ quite a bit in appearance. Compression stockings mimic the appearance of normal stockings, which can make them a great choice for those who normally where stockings at work, or those who just find stockings more comfortable than bare legs with socks. Compression stockings function in the same manner as compression socks, but given the nature of stockings, they usually go higher up the leg than compression socks.
Will anyone benefit from compression socks?
Not necessarily. Our own bodies actually have natural ways of doing the same thing as compression socks. The veins in our body have intermittent one-way valves that prevent the back-flow of blood away from the heart. So let's consider the legs in a standing position. As the heart pumps, blood flowing through the veins up the legs and back to the heart is subject to gravity, which is where the one-way valves come in to stop the blood from just sinking back to your feet.
In addition to these valves, our muscles also help pump blood through our veins back to our heart. This isn't something you can really notice or feel, that is, until you're stuck in a standing or sitting position for a really long period of time. If you are unable to use your leg muscles to help pump blood back to your heart, you can become slightly more prone to leg pain and discomfort, as well as other conditions like deep vein thrombosis (DVT). This is where compression socks come in. They help mimic the action of your muscle to compress the relatively superficial vasculature, which in turn helps prevent those conditions and can work to minimize any pain and discomfort.
Who should wear compression socks?
Compression socks are highly marketed to athletes looking for ways to improve performance. However, we'll focus more on nursing for now, and will provide some supplementary information about athletic performance at the end of the article in case anyone is interested.
Anyone who sits or stands for long periods of time, especially in stationary positions, will benefit from wearing compression socks or stockings. They are especially useful for anyone who has experienced any of the following:
- Leg pain and fatigue from standing or sitting
- Swelling of the lower extremities
- Varicose veins
- Venous ulcers (active or healed)
- Venous insufficiency
- Deep vein thrombosis (DVT) and post-thrombotic syndrome
Foot, leg, and back pain/fatigue is very common and intuitive to understand, but that doesn't make it something to take lightly. How you feel physically directly affects how you feel mentally, and over the course of a set of shifts, this can really wear on you not just at work, but outside work as well. Of course, if you're reading this and are a nurse, you likely know all too well what I'm talking about.
The main point we're trying to make about pain and discomfort in the lower extremities or back is that it should be addressed sooner rather than later, even if you don't think it's too big of a deal. This doesn't necessarily mean immediately going out and buying compression socks or new shoes, but even simply discussing with peers, your GP, or a physiotherapist can really help prevent a lot of suffering down the road. Furthermore, pain, discomfort, and especially swelling can all be indicators of more serious underlying issues.
Other problems that can be addressed with compression socks aren't necessarily as common or obvious, so we will discuss each of these briefly so you have a better idea of what to look out for, and when compression socks may be good for you.
Compression Socks for Lower Extremity Swelling
Lower extremity swelling seems pretty straight forward, but there can be many different causes and outcomes, so it's not something that should be taken lightly. Lower extremity swelling, which is also known as peripheral edema, is generally caused by fluid retention in your legs. Given the fluid retention itself can be caused by a few different underlying issues, it's always a good idea to chat with your doctor about it. For example, fluid retention can be caused by diabetes mellitus or general problems with the circulatory or lymphatic systems, as well as issues with the kidneys. These are the reason we suggest talking with your doctor if you notice swelling in your legs.
Often times, peripheral edema is simply due to long periods of standing or sitting, especially if it's very repetitive, as we would see with a lot of nursing sets. Peripheral edema caused by long periods of standing or sitting can be directly addressed with the use of compression socks, which will help mimic the pumping action that your muscles normally provide when you're actively walking or running around. However, do compression socks really work for lower extremity swelling? Let's take a look at a couple well-controlled scientific studies, one of which focuses on edema caused by diabetes mellitus, which is one of the more sensitive conditions causing leg swelling. This can serve as a good model for this purpose, the study also investigated potential harm caused by compressions socks. So, what did the authors have to say?
In this study, participants were instructed to wear "mild" compression socks for diabetes mellitus during all waking hours. Mild was defined as socks that provide 18-25 mm HG of pressure, which is a common unit used to quantify how much pressure certain compression socks are able to apply to your legs. What the researchers wanted to know is if the socks could help treat lower extremity edema without compromising arterial circulation, which is a fear among doctors who treat this condition in diabetes mellitus patients.
The results showed that the compression socks were very good at reducing swelling in the foot, ankle, and calf, but especially so at the foot and calf. General cutaneous edema was also reduced, and all of this occurred without compromising arterial circulation. This is excellent news for diabetes mellitus patients, but also clearly demonstrated the compression socks' ability to reduce leg swelling without doing any harm, which is something lots of other people, especially nurses, may be able to benefit from.
You may have heard that compression socks are good for varicose veins. Before we talk about how compression socks work to treat varicose veins, we should briefly learn a little more about what varicose veins actually are, and why people get them.
Varicose veins are essentially unusually enlarged veins. They can happen anywhere in the body, but are way more common in the legs and feet. This is because the veins in your legs, especially lower legs, are subjected to the most pressure, especially during standing and walking. If you're standing still, this pressure remains constant and localized.
Generally speaking, females are more at risk than males for varicose veins, and older individuals in general are also more susceptible. The reason that women are more at risk is because of higher and more fluctuating levels of estrogen, which acts as a relaxant for the walls in your veins, which are normally very elastic. Also, pregnancy can put a lot of pressure on veins in the pelvic region, which can also have downstream effects. In terms of age, older individuals are more susceptible to varicose veins because veins will gradually lose elasticity with age. The elastic nature of veins is really important, as the stretch and subsequent elastic reaction help push blood back towards the heart as it's pumped through your veins.
How do you know if you have varicose veins? According to the Mayo Clinic, signs include dark purple or blue veins, twisted and bulging veins, or both. While people who have varicose veins sometimes don't feel them, symptoms can still include achy or heavy legs, muscle cramping, swelling, burning sensation in the legs, pain that increases after standing or sitting for long periods of time, and itching around the varicose veins. These are serious symptoms that do require a visit to your doctor, and if you experience hardening of the vein, color changes, or inflammation around the veins, these are signs and symptoms of even more serious circulation problems. At the end of the day, if you're concerned about varicose veins and whether or not you have them, it's always a good idea to check in with your doctor.
Compression Socks for Varicose Veins
Whether you're concerned about varicose veins due to appearance, or because of potential health problems associated with them, they are something you will benefit by treating. What does the evidence say about using compression socks to treat varicose veins? Fortunately, there have been numerous studies published about the effect of compression socks on varicose veins, and these studies have since been reviewed in order to provide a more complete picture of the efficacy of treating varicose veins with compression socks.
In one very thorough study that reviewed all the available evidence regarding compression hosiery, they did find that patients benefited from wearing compression socks, but often times the results were not significant, were fairly subjective, or contradicted other studies that showed no benefit. Some studies that showed benefits didn't include a placebo, which makes it difficult to know the exact extent of the effect of compression socks, especially in a quantitative manner.
In terms of research and hard science, the jury is still out on whether or not compression socks are as good for varicose veins as most people think, but nevertheless, the observation of perceived benefits has contributed to clinicians recommending compression socks for varicose veins. In our opinion, we would definitely consider using compression socks for varicose veins, but only after visiting your doctor first.
Venous ulcers are somewhat similar to varicose veins, just a little more specific. Similar to varicose veins, they are more common in women and older individuals due to processes affecting the mechanical properties of venous tissue. However, rather than general pooling of the blood in the veins due to age or constant standing, venous ulcers also have some specific causes, namely the improper functioning of at least one of the one-way valves in your veins.
When a venous valve doesn't function properly, it can allow blood to spill back in to the area below it, causing blood to pool in that area. Even if it keeps pumping, this area of you vein will constantly be experiencing high pressure, and you can end up with wounds and some blood potentially escaping the vein. This not only affects the vein, but also affects the tissue surrounding the vein, particularly the skin.
A full-blown venous ulcer is very identifiable, as it's basically an open wound usually somewhere around the ankle. However, this extent of ulcer can be easily prevented, you just need to be familiar with some of the signs and willing to address them should they occur. One of the very first signs of a venous ulcer is swelling int he lower legs. As we mentioned previously, swelling could be temporary and simply a result from standing, or could be something more serious like a venous ulcer, so it's always worth monitoring any swelling you may be experiencing.
After some slight general swelling, a venous ulcer may lead to some brown patches on the skin around the area of swelling, and if blood flow is affected enough, areas of skin may appear to change color between red and blue. Eventually, the skin may become itchy and you might notice some tender, but firm, areas underneath the skin. If you experience any of these symptoms, it's highly recommended that you visit your doctor.
Compression Socks for Venous Ulcers
Treatments for venous ulcers will vary depending on the extent of the ulcer. Regardless, your doctor will be the one to decide what path is best to take, but for your own general information, here are some of the most common treatment methods for venous ulcers.
Washing the area with specific chemical solutions may be required if the ulcer is advanced. However, for common occurrences that are in the early stage of ulcer formation, one of the most common form of treatments is compression wrapping. While this is the same principle as commercially available compression socks, it does require specific input from doctors or nurses, as the precise location of a venous ulcer will be different for every patient. Often times the nurse or doctor will apply the compression bandage for you, and then may recommend wearing a compression sock over top of that.
Another treatment is elevation, which is especially important for those who are less mobile. In this sense, you would make sure to have your legs elevated during a sitting position. This can benefit nurses who primarily work at a desk, but for those on float rotations or in a setting where you're always on your feet, compression is certainly necessary. Even if you're a nurse and have treated patients with venous ulcers via this method, we would still recommend visiting your doctor first before applying any of your own compression wrapping, just in case. The good news is that if compression is necessary, there are lots of good options available for compression socks or stockings for nurses.
Lymphedema is the swelling caused by inflamed lymph nodes and vessels. The lymphatic system is different from the venous system in that instead of transporting blood, it primarily transports waste products, but much of the mechanisms are the same.
Lymphedema can be caused by many things from very minor common problems like a general blockage to more serious conditions like lymphoma. According tot he Mayo Clinic, those who are at the highest risk are older individuals, overweight or obese individuals, and cancer survivors, particularly those who have had lymph nodes previously removed. Signs and symptoms include swelling of all or part of your arm(s) or leg(s) (including fingers and toes), limb heaviness/tightness, decreased range of motion, aching, thickening or hardening of the skin, and recurring infections. Generally speaking, if you experience swelling of any limb, it's always a good idea to visit your doctor.
Compression Socks for Lymphedema
In addition to light exercise and massage, compression apparel is one of the most common forms of treatment for lymphedema, and this is usually provided in combination with the aforementioned treatments. The main idea here is to try and move the lymph fluid out of the affected arm, which usually requires some form of force and squeezing from your own muscles (exercise), someone else applying the force to you in a directed manner (massage), and out garments that provide constant pressure while standing still, walking, or even exercising (compression socks).
Again, like some of the other specific conditions we have discussed, treatment should be discussed with a doctor first and not be completely self-directed. You may require a different proportion of treatment styles than someone else, and having a professional discuss the style and fit of your compression socks is always a good idea no matter what the condition is.
Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT)
Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT) is when a blood clot forms in one or more of your deep veins, usually in the leg. DVT's can be a little tricky, as they sometimes occur without any symptoms at all, and when there are symptoms, they often present themselves in the form of pain and swelling, just like many other venous conditions we already discussed.
If you're reading this entire article, then you have already heard us say "visit your doctor" if you experience any swelling of a limb. DVT is one of the reasons for this, because if left untreated, it can progress into a pulmonary embolism, which is when a blood clot breaks loose and makes it all the way back to your lungs, ultimately blocking blood flow. The symptoms for the latter are more pronounced, and according to the Mayo Clinic, they include sudden unexplained shortness of breath, chest pain that worsens when you inhale or cough, lighthead or dizziness sensation, rapid pulse, and coughing up blood. If you experience any of these, seek medical care immediately.
Lots of things can increase your risk for DVT, and they all revolve around anything that causes blood clotting, as well as anything that prevents proper circulation in your legs. Examples include previous clotting conditions, prolonged bed rest, previous surgery especially in or around a vein, pregnancy, being overweight or obese, smoking, and of course, standing or especially sitting for long periods of time.
Even if DVT is treated successfully, patients are still at risk for developing post-thrombotic syndrome, which are recurring and long-lasting effects from the original DVT. As you will see below, compression socks can be used to treat DVT as well as to prevent subsequent post-thrombotic syndrome. Symptoms of post-thrombotic syndrome are similar to DVT and other venous conditions, but may also appear to be more chronic or long lasting than the original symptoms.
Compression Socks for Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT)
DVT is treated very carefully and is always patient-specific. If you're a fan of sports, you may have heard of players being sidelined for long periods of time due to blood clots, and this is to ensure that the clots don't get any bigger, don't break away and move to the lungs, and it also takes time to treat and minimize these clots.
The treatment for DVT usually includes some sort of patient-specific treatment with blood thinners, drugs meant to break down clots in a controlled manner, venous filters, and compression apparel, although the latter is primarily for prevention of DVT altogether or prevention of further swelling and blood pooling that already exists.
So when would you wear compression socks for DVT? If you have any of the known risk factors, compression socks can be a good idea as they can hep prevent blood from pooling in your ankles and legs. Even those without significant risk factors use them to prevent DVT. For example, some people use them when going on a long flight and they know they'll be stuck in the cramped seats. Athletes often use compression socks now for prevention and potential positive training effects (key word there being "potential"), and now moe and more nurses and other health care professionals are using compression socks not just for DVT, but all of those other venous conditions that can cause pain and swelling.
To provide further scientific support in quantitative manner, a study published in the Lancet, one of the world's most reputable medical journals, showed some positive results in regards to the use of compression socks for DVT. In this study, 194 patients who experienced their first episode of proven DVT were randomly assigned to wear compression socks for two years or no compression socks. They observed that about 60% of those 194 patients developed post-thrombotic syndrome, but this rate was reduced by about 50% in those patients who wore compression socks.
To reiterate, if you are experiencing symptoms of any of the above conditions, compression socks are likely to help you, but it's always safe to check with your doctor first to make sure there aren't any other underlying issues that may require different forms of treatment.
Compression Socks for Nurses - General Consensus
Overall, scientific evidence and subjective outcomes noted by nurses and other healthcare professionals indicate the compression socks can be extremely useful for nurses. While treatment for various conditions will be provided b a doctor, they often include the use of compression socks. Moreover, nurses can use compression socks to counteract some of the pain and discomfort developed as a result of recurring long shifts. Nurses can choose from a variety of styles to comfortably fit under their scrubs, and if socks are not preferred, compression stockings are also widely available, which may especially appeal to those in office settings.