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What Are Therapeutic Socks?

By Madeleine A.
Updated Jan 28, 2024
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Therapeutic socks are also known as compression socks. They are used to improve circulation and to prevent blood clots in those who recently had surgery. In addition, therapeutic socks can be helpful and soothing for people who stand on their feet all day and for people with diabetes or disorders of the circulatory system. Compression stockings are generally worn during the day, and removed at night, before bed.

Besides being common after surgery, wearing compression socks might also help prevent blood clots in people who fly or drive for long periods of time. During long flights and drives, the blood can pool in the veins, causing it to clot. If the clot breaks off, it can travel to the heart or lungs. In people at risk for blood clots, other treatments may be necessary such as taking blood thinners and taking medications to lower the blood pressure.

Compression or therapeutic socks also help control discomfort caused by varicose veins. The socks are made from an elastic-type material and are typically white, although colored compression socks are becoming more popular. They can be challenging to put on, and are especially challenging for those with joint problems or people who are very weak. After surgery, the nurse or health care attendant needs to periodically check circulation in the legs by looking at the color of the skin and feeling the temperature of the legs.

People who are prone to swollen ankles can also benefit from wearing therapeutic socks, as the compression allows for the fluid to reabsorb into the system. While wearing the socks, it is also recommended that the legs be elevated to further reduce ankle swelling. When ankle edema or swelling isn't resolved by wearing compression stockings and elevating the legs, the health care provider needs to determine the cause of swelling and recommend further treatment.

Certain types of compression socks can be purchased over the counter, however, those used to treat circulatory problems are generally available by prescription only. Measurements need to be taken to make sure the socks will not be too constricting, as this can worsen existing problems and cause additional pain. In addition, measurements can be taken at the health care provider's office, as well as most medical supply retailers.

Before wearing therapeutic socks is considered, it should be discussed with the health care provider. Certain people may not be candidates for wearing compression stockings and doing so may exacerbate conditions such as varicose veins, if the socks are not fitted properly. Most prescription compression stockings are covered by medical insurance, however, many over-the-counter types may not be.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Discussion Comments
By ZipLine — On Oct 16, 2014

My doctor prescribed compression socks for me after my leg surgery. I was not sure if they would help but they truly did. They kept the swelling down significantly. I wore them for a long time, although I switched to a looser one after some time. It was just more comfortable with them on. I'm sure my recovery would have been longer without them.

By turquoise — On Oct 15, 2014

@bear78-- First of all, if you have not told your doctor about your feet, you should. It will be important for him to know.

I do use therapeutic socks from time to time and I do find them beneficial. They can help increase blood circulation and they will help with warmth as well. The ones I have feel a bit too tight at times, so I don't usually wear them 24 hours a day. I may have gotten the wrong size actually so you should pay attention to that when you're shopping.

Something else you can do if you are at home during the day is to keep a hot water bag on your feet with a blanket over it. It does wonders in winter, I use a hot water bag for my feet all the time.

By bear78 — On Oct 14, 2014

Does anyone here use therapeutic socks for diabetes? Do they actually work? Would you recommend them?

I have diabetes. It's under control but I've noticed recently that my feet are far more cold than usual. I'm having trouble keeping them warm. I'm afraid that it might be because of poor blood circulation caused by diabetes. I'm trying to figure out what to do to keep my feet warm and my blood circulation going. Are the socks worth it?

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