From having a physically demanding job to enduring plantar fasciitis or shin splints, plenty of activities and conditions can cause pain and discomfort in your legs or feet—and wearing compression socks can help treat most of them.
Of course, that leaves the question: What level of compression socks do I need? They’re available in a wide range of compression levels, and it can be confusing to understand which one will work best for you. The guide below discusses the different types of compression available, who should use them, and what conditions they treat.
If you struggle with muscle pain or poor circulation and want fast pain relief, Nurse Yard’s compression socks are the answer. Our compression socks deliver between 20 and 30mmHg of graduated pressure to alleviate pain and swelling and make your steps more comfortable. Check out our styles today!
What Compression Levels Are Available?
Compression socks are available in a wide variety of compression levels, from very light to extremely firm. Compression levels are measured in millimeters of mercury (mmHg), which is the measurement used when your blood pressure is taken—it represents the amount of pressure the socks deliver to your circulatory system.
Though all compression socks essentially do the same thing, different levels of pressure can be used to treat different conditions. For instance, lighter pressure may help improve blood circulation, while deeper pressure works better to alleviate arthritis pain.
Here’s a detailed list of the different compression levels available:
Light Compression: 15 to 20mmHg
Compression socks at this level of pressure will feel just a bit tighter than the average crew sock or pair of stockings. They’re available in a wide variety of styles and sizes, and almost anyone can wear them safely.
They’re most commonly used to alleviate discomfort during air travel or pregnancy.
Medium Compression: 20 to 30mmHg
Most standard compression socks offer between 20 to 30mmHg of moderate compression. It’s the perfect level of compression to alleviate pain, discomfort, and swelling without interrupting blood flow or abrading the skin.
These socks are often worn by medical staff, servers, and athletes to support their joints and muscles. Nurse Yard’s compression socks offer this level of graduated compression to keep you comfortable and pain-free all day long.
Firm Compression: 30 to 40mmHg
Stronger levels of compression, such as this one, hug your foot and leg very tightly to treat serious circulatory or vein-related conditions. Those using compression socks for muscle soreness or swelling should use a lower compression level—these high-pressure compression socks should only be used as prescribed by a doctor.
Very Firm Compression: 40 to 50mmHg
This level of compression is the strongest available. It’s very rarely prescribed and should never be used without a prescription. Generally, 40 to 50mmHg of pressure isn’t necessary to treat most venous or circulatory conditions. Most doctors recommend using lighter compression in all but the most severe cases.
Over-the-Counter vs. Medical-Grade Compression Socks
Many levels of compression socks are available for use without a prescription or a doctor’s advice—you can simply purchase and wear them at your discretion. However, the higher the pressure, the more important it is that you consult a doctor before using them. For instance, the highest-pressure compression socks often need to be specially ordered or prescribed because of the risks associated with wearing them for long periods.
Below is a breakdown of the available compression levels and proper use for each category of compression sock.
Over-the-counter compression socks usually range between 15 and 20mmHg of light pressure. Most people can safely wear them for hours at a time without a doctor’s advice or supervision. They’re most often used to treat mild physical discomfort from playing sports, flying in a plane, or pregnancy.
Medical-grade compression socks deliver between 20 and 30mmHg of mild-to-firm pressure. Most people looking for compression socks opt for this level of pressure because it provides long-lasting pain relief without causing unpleasant side effects.
Doctors often prescribe this level of compression sock to treat conditions like plantar fasciitis, neuropathy, and circulatory concerns, but they can also be purchased without a prescription for personal use. Medical professionals, service workers, athletes, and frequent travelers can safely wear them all day, every day to prevent swelling, soreness, and muscle fatigue.
At Nurse Yard, we designed our compression socks to deliver graduated pressure, starting with 30mmHg around the ankle and loosening slightly to 20mmHg around the no-slip cuff. We find this makes our compression socks more comfortable and more effective.
Anyone can purchase prescription-grade compression socks from a medical supply store, but they should only be used under the supervision of a medical professional.
These compression socks provide very strong pressure ranging between 30 and 50mmHg. This level of compression is typically only prescribed to treat specific medical conditions like deep vein thrombosis, blood clots, and lymphedema.
Wearing high-pressure compression socks without a doctor’s supervision can result in disrupted circulation, skin abrasions, and other medical complications.
What Level of Compression is Right for Your Condition?
If you have a specific health condition, you should always consult your doctor before getting compression socks. Your physician can advise you what level of compression would be best, how long to wear them, and even provide a prescription if you require high-pressure compression.
However, if you’re wearing compression socks to alleviate muscle soreness, reduce swelling, or improve circulation, between 20 and 30mmHg should do the trick. Most over-the-counter compression socks fall between these pressures, and some—like Nurse Yard—offer graduated pressure with a snug ankle and slightly looser cuff. This stimulates circulation without cutting off blood flow.
Other Factors to Consider When Choosing Compression Socks
Several other things to keep in mind when buying compression socks include the style, fabric, and sizing. Knowing what to look for in these categories will help you choose comfortable and effective compression socks.
Style and Fabric
There are several styles of compression socks available for purchase, including:
- Crew-style socks that cover the foot and ankle
- Toeless socks with arch and ankle support
- Knee-high socks that support the lower leg
The first two styles only provide compression to a few areas of the ankle and foot, while the third style supports your joints and connective tissue from ankle to knee. This style also alleviates pain and swelling from the widest variety of conditions—from plantar fasciitis to sore muscles after a workout.
Compression socks also come in a variety of fabrics, from thick and textured to durable and soft. It’s important to choose a fabric that’s comfortable on the skin and won’t leave deep indentations or chafe marks.
For instance, Nurse Yard’s compression socks offer the perfect balance of support and comfort. Soft, elastic fabric combined with a cushioned ankle prevents chafing, while graduated pressure prevents inflammation and encourages blood flow.
Choosing compression socks that fit properly is essential if you want to experience their full benefits. Compression socks that fit too loosely won’t provide adequate pressure to improve circulation and will likely need to be adjusted often. Conversely, too-tight compression socks can abrade your skin and disrupt circulation, which can cause other health problems if left uncorrected.
To ensure your compression socks fit correctly, be sure to measure your calf with a flexible measuring tape before choosing a size. Additionally, they should feel snug without digging into your skin or causing pain.
Nurse Yard Compression Socks Provide Graduated Pressure
While other compression socks only provide one level of compression, Nurse Yard’s specialized design offers graduated pressure to improve circulation and provide pain relief. Coupled with the cushioned ankle, supported arches, and no-slip cuff, our compression socks provide all-day, hassle-free comfort.
If you want durable, effective compression socks, check out our wide variety of colors and styles today—we’ll even give you 70% off when you buy a second pair!