How Compression Socks And Stockings Help Nurses

How Compression Socks And Stockings Help Nurses

Nurses need to be wearing compression socks or stockings for every shift.  Especially nurses who are on their feet for 12 hour shifts!

I have been doing a bit of research lately on the effects of standing/walking for long hours.  The reason for this is that I am an emergency room nurse who has worked on my feet all the way through two entire pregnancies – until just a few weeks before I gave birth.

I had no idea that being on my feet for such long hours could actually be bad for my health. I figured that standing and walking all day was better then sitting for long periods. As it turns out, that may not be true. Even for those who aren’t even pregnant.

Compression stockings are often overlooked as a way to prevent some of the chronic issues that come from working in a profession where you are on your feet for such long hours.  There are enough occupational hazards for nurses as it is and this is an easier way for us to take better care of ourselves on the job!

Standing nurse leaning over to speak with patient

Nurses are standing or walking most of the time which is why it is so important to wear compression socks or stockings.

How Do Compression Socks Help Nurses?

#1.  Prevention of varicose veins

Standing for long periods of time causes valves in the veins to become weakened, causing blood to collect in the veins. This causes the veins to enlarge and increase in pressure. The veins then stretch from the increased pressure and cause varicose veins. Fortunately, varicose veins are not dangerous however then can be very painful.

#2.  Improved blood flow and decreased risk of blood clots

There are a ton of studies out there on using compression stockings to prevent blood clots in patients recovering from surgery. As a nurse, I have helped my own patients use them many times. As it turns out, nurses should probably be using them too.

A study by The Society of Occupational Medicine found that wearing compression stockings significantly decreased lower limb venous pressure in nurses who stood for very long hours. The data found that compression stockings protected against oxidative stress in those who work in long-standing occupations.

#3.  Decreased swelling of ankles and feet

I have been wearing graduated 30mm compression stockings for about the last 4 weeks during my 12 hour ER shifts. It has been a drastically better experience for me. I wouldn’t even consider going into work without them at this point because my legs start to hurt so badly by the end of the day.

Pregnancy exacerbates the problem of varicose veins and other venous issues since being pregnant increases blood flow in women by 50%. There are days when I hardly sit except for my 1 hour lunch break. That is a long time for anyone, much less a nurse who is already 7 months pregnant. If I didn’t wear compression stockings at this point, I don’t think I would even be able to make it through a shift.

Compression socks help prevent varicose veins..

Compression socks help nurses by preventing varicose views due to standing for long periods of time.

How do compression socks work?

Compression socks help increase circulation of blood flow and oxygen by helping increase the velocity, or speed of blood flow. By squeezing on the legs, the veins carrying blood to the heart are compressed. Think of how when you squeeze a hose, it squirts the water out faster. With compression stockings, the same volume of blood is able to move up the leg, but it has less area in which to move.

graduated compression socks

Compression socks and stockings help nurses by preventing varicose veins due to standing for long periods of time.

Waring compression takes some getting used to.

When I first started wearing compression stockings during my pregnancy I wasn’t happy about it.  My doctor recommended them for me because she knew I was a nurse.  I wore the ankle to waist 20-30mmHg compression stockings, and they are tight! It is not an exaggeration to say that it took at least 5 minutes to pull them up and get them situated. They are especially difficult to put on with a 7th month pregnant belly. I felt (and probably looked) like an awkward whale putting them on.

Compression socks or stockings are a non-negotiable for pregnant nurses… unless you enjoy varicose veins!


Now that I’m used to wearing compression stockings, I love them.  I can’t believe I used to work 12 hour shifts without them.

I have spoken to a lot of other nurses who say the same thing. A male co-worker I spoke with recently in the ER wears knee high compression stockings and says his legs “still feel energized at the end of a shift.”

It makes sense that standing up and working on your feet all day would be problematic in a matter of time. Swelling, varicose veins and decreased blood flow seem like an obvious result of being on your feet for 12 hours a day. Why wasn’t I wearing compression stockings sooner?

As long as I am working as a nurse, compression stockings will be a part of my life. Having pain or discomfort due to my hard work as an RN is so not OK with me. I don’t want future circulation and venous issues due to the fact that I worked hard as a nurse.

As a mom of small babies and an ER nurse I certainly don’t need any more wear-and-tear on my body!

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Additional recommend reading:

8 Ways Nurses Can Stay Healthy

8 Ways Nurses Can Stay Healthy

(This post may contain affiliate links.  You can read my disclosure page here.  For more information about collaborating with Mother Nurse Love click here).

Nurse, take care of yourself first.

This statement may appear counter intuitive.  After all, aren’t nurses supposed to be selfless humans who give care to total strangers without concern for their own well being?

Two words:  Absolutely NOT!

Nurses NEED to put themselves first so they have the stamina and good health to care for their patients and their own families.  This is non-negotiable.

Staying healthy as a nurse is a win-win for everyone.  First off, our families get a better version of us.  Second, we have the energy and stamina to keep up with heavy patient workloads.  And third, we have better relationships with our spouses and friends.

Most importantly though, nurses who take care of themselves are happier!

(Attention employers:  studies show that happy, healthy nurses give higher quality of patient care.   This results in a decrease in medical errors and improves patient satisfaction, which is very good for hospital PR and the overall patient experience.  So support your nurses in their quest for a healthier lifestyle!)

8 Simple Ways Nurses Can Stay Healthy When Working 12 Hours Shifts!

8 Simple Ways Nurses Can Stay Healthy When Working 12 Hours Shifts!

Here are 8 ways nurses can stay healthy and practice better self-care on a daily basis:

#1.  Protect your back:  do core work!

As a result of years of heavy lifting many RN’s are suffering from chronic back problems. I know several nurses who have had to go out on disability and sadly still suffer from permanent chronic back pain.

Chronic back pain in the nursing population is a common ailment. An evidenced based review at the Texas Women’s University reported that estimates of chronic low back pain among nurses range from 50%-80%. There is good news though: the review also presented an overwhelming amount of studies that found that regular yoga significantly reduced symptoms associated with chronic low back pain and greatly improved overall physicality.  Yoga poses (like plank pose) help you create a stronger core.  So say yes to yoga!

By working on your core at home, you can preemptively protect your back from some of the wear-and tear you are going to experience as a busy RN. You STILL NEED to use good body mechanics while lifting and turning patients- this is imperative!  But by working your core you help strengthen your back and help prevent injuries from occurring over the course of your nursing career.

#2.  Wear compression stockings

Compression stockings help increase circulation of blood flow and oxygen by helping increase the velocity, or speed of blood flow. By squeezing on the legs, the veins carrying blood to the heart are compressed. Think of how when you squeeze a hose, it squirts the water out faster. With compression stockings, the same volume of blood is able to move up the leg, but it has less area in which to move.

Standing for long periods of time causes valves in the veins to become weakened, causing blood to collect in the veins. This causes the veins to enlarge and increase in pressure. The veins then stretch from the increased pressure and cause varicose veins, which can be painful and unsightly!

study by The Society of Occupational Medicine found that wearing compression stockings significantly decreased lower limb venous pressure in nurses who stood for very long hours. The data found that compression stockings protected against oxidative stress in those who work in long-standing occupations.

(Learn more about the best compression stockings and socks for nurses here!)

#3.  Practice yoga

Yoga stretching not only increases flexibly, but increases muscle strength and prevents injuries such as chronic lower back pain. In a career as physically demanding as nursing, the more physically stable we are, the better care we can give to ourselves and our patients.

study published in the National Institute of Biotechnology Information investigated the effects of yoga on stress coping strategies of ICU nurses. After only 8 weeks of yoga the results showed that the participating ICU nurses had significantly better focus coping strategies and a major reduction in perceived mental pressure. If that is what can happen after only 8 weeks, imagine the impact a regular, permanent yoga practice could have on stress management levels.

Check out Yoga For Nurses for easy to follow instructional videos.  Then, read more about why nurses NEED yoga here.

#4.  Stay away from break room junk

Weight can creep up on healthcare workers who wear comfy, loose-fitting scrubs to work everyday, without you even noticing it!

Patients and staff often like to bring unhealthy snacks like donuts, cakes or cookies into the nurse break rooms as a “thank you” to nurses.  This gesture is very “sweet”  of them, however it doesn’t do our health or waistlines any good.  Suggest bringing in fruit or veggie platters as a healthy treat for nurses instead.

One of the best ways nurses can stay healthy by preventing weight gain is to grocery shop in advance and prepare meals the night before a shift.  That way you are not tempted to order take out or reach for high sugar goodies when you are starving at break time.

One day per week I make a big batch of quinoa and keep it handy in the fridge for myself. When I need it, I add veggies, nuts, seeds, dried cranberries, olive oil, tempeh or whatever else I have in the fridge at that moment. Not only does this help me make healthy lunches for work, but I also have delicious leftovers ready to eat when I get home from a long 12 hour shift.

(You can read more about how I prepare for a 12 hour shift here.)

#5.  Consider working per diem

Per diem means: for each day. As a nurse, I am literally employed “by the day.” Hospitals need per diem nurses to cover staffing needs in the hospital, which can vary by the day or season.

Per diem nursing has been a game-changer for me as a working mom. It is so flexible that I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to go back to being a career RN again.

Here are a few benefits I found when I became a per diem nurse:

  • Significantly higher per hour pay
  • Work as little as one day a week or as many as five days a week (as long as there is a need)
  • Make own schedule (if the hospital doesn’t need me they call me off)
  • Cancel at the last minute (as long as it is by 3am)
  • Add on a shift at the last minute
  • Incredible opportunities for learning and professional growth
  • Work in many different specialties: Emergency Room, Cardiac, Liver Transplant, Medicine, Neuroscience and Stroke, or Oncology, and more
  • Opportunities to “master in” to a unit that is chronically short on staffing needs for a period of time: this guarantees a certain number of hours and gives an opportunity to go to the same unit for weeks or months at a time

Of course, there are also several drawbacks to being a per-diem nurse as well.  It is not for every nurse.  (You can read more about how per diem nursing helped me find a work-life balance here).

#6.  Get good sleep

Nurses work very long hours and night shifts, which interrupts the normal sleep pattern.

Help yourself by creating an environment at home that is conducive to sleeping, even during daytime hours.

  • Install blackout shades in your bedroom.
  • Disconnect electronics that artificially lighten a dark room.
  • Wear an eye mask.
  • Purchase quality ear plugs so that the guy mowing his lawn next door doesn’t wake you up at noon when you are finally entering your REM cycle.

When I first started working night shifts I even went so far as to use “blue blocker” sunglasses when I was driving myself home at 8’o clock in the morning.  (“Blue blockers” are the aviator style sunglasses that Zack Galifianakis and the baby wore in “The Hangover.”  Who new one of the best ways nurses can stay healthy involves also looking stylishly cool?).

“Blue blockers” have orange glass lenses that cut the blue portion of the light spectrum.   This helps prevent the light-inducted melatonin suppression and helps make it easier to fall asleep after seeing the morning sun.

#7.  Meditate for 5 minutes a day

One of the best ways nurses can stay healthy is through meditation.  Meditation is the practice of focusing your mind on a particular thought or activity to achieve a mentally clear and emotionally calm state.

A few benefits of meditation:

  • decreased burnout
  • better focus and ability to ignore distractions
  • boost compassion
  • better sleep
  • stress relief
  • happier state of mind

Headspace is an app for your phone that has many different meditations each lasting 1o to 60 minutes. If you can find 10 minutes in your day then you have no excuse not to meditate!  Meditation is attainable for even the busiest of nurses!

I listen to Headspace with my headphones most nights before I go to bed.  It helps me relax after a long day and even helps me to get a better nights sleep.

Like yoga, meditation is a practice. There is no good or bad. It is just what it is at the time. You can keep practicing to train your mind to do better the next time. And then eventually your brain is rewired by the habitual repetition of meditation and it becomes easier.

#8.  Practice gratitude

Intentionally choose gratitude.

Try keeping a gratitude journal.  Writing down what you are grateful for consciously reminds you that even though being a nurse is frustrating at times, the good stuff far outweighs the bad. It keeps you aligned with the positive aspects of being a nurse that we should keep our energy focused on:  giving great patient care and helping save lives.

I love being a nurse, despite the fact that is it overwhelming and at times even maddening.  Practicing gratitude helps me recognize how lucky I am to be a nurse who gets to help other people as my profession.   I go home everyday with a sense of accomplishment that even I can “be the change I wish to see in the world.”

The Best Compression Stockings For Nurses

The Best Compression Stockings For Nurses

*This post contains affiliate links.  My disclosure policy is really boring but you can find it here.

If there is anyone who NEEDS to be wearing compression stockings or socks, its nurses (or anyone who is one their feet for 12+ hours a day!).

There are 3 reasons for this:

  1. Prevent or reduce varicose veins
  2. Improve blood flow and decrease risk of blood clots
  3. Decrease swelling of the legs and ankles

Nurses already put a lot of stress on their bodies, we don’t need more!  (Read more about the benefits of compression stockings here).

Since I started wearing compression stockings my legs feel noticeably better and more energized at the end of a shift.  I started wearing them out of necessity when I was pregnant and was able to continue working as an ER nurse until I was almost 8 and a half months pregnant!

I have always felt good about the fact that I have a job that is not sedentary.  But as it turns out being on my feet for such long hours can actually be worse for your health then sitting all day. So how are we supposed to continue working as busy healthcare professionals AND prevent prevent some of these insidious chronic issues?

Cue, compression stockings!

How do compression stockings work?

Compression stockings help increase circulation of blood flow and oxygen by helping increase the velocity, or speed of blood flow. By squeezing on the legs, the veins carrying blood to the heart are compressed. Think of how when you squeeze a hose, it squirts the water out faster. With compression stockings, the same volume of blood is able to move up the leg, but it has less area in which to move.

Understanding compression stocking levels:

The best compression stockings for nurses

Nurse, you need to get some compression  stockings (unless you want a few varicose veins).

I know, I know.  This is SUPER boring information.  But its good information to know for your leg health!

Choosing the right compression stockings can be difficult if you do not understand what the levels of compression actually mean.  Compression stockings have a range of numbers to indicate how much graduated compression the garment has. Here is a quick and dirty breakdown:

  • 15-20 mmHg
    • Good for everyday wear to help with welling and fatigued legs due to long periods of travel, sitting or standing.
  • 20-30mmHg
    • Medical grade compression.  Good for managing swelling, spider veins, travel, sports and after some surgeries.  Also good for pregnant mothers to alleviate swelling and achy legs.
  • 30-40 mmHg
    • Recommended when you have a blood clot, deep vein thrombosis DVT or lymphedema.
  • 40-50 mmHg
    • very strong compression for severe venous stasis, wound management, and lymphedema.

(The unit of measurement (mmHg) is called “millimeters of mercury” which is a measurement of pressure, also used in blood pressure.  It is basically a measurement for how tight the compression on your legs is.)

The sweet spot for medical professionals on their feet all day falls in the 20-30 mmHg range or sometimes 30-40mmHg depending on how much compression you are looking for.  You should discuss compression stockings with your doctor, especially if you have any medical issues.

Keep in mind that you get what you pay for.  Generally speaking with all products, if the price seems too good to be true, then it probably is.  The same concept applies to compression stockings.  Trust me when I say I learned this the hard way!

How do I find and review the best compression stockings for nurses?

So glad you asked.  The best compression stockings for nurses are the ones you actually wear!  Here you go…

The Best compression socks for nurses:


Best compression stockings for nurses:


Expecting?  The best compression stockings for pregnant nurses:


There are enough occupational hazards being a nurse already.

Sacrificing my leg health is just not worth it. I can’t believe I wasn’t wearing compression stockings sooner.

As long as I am working as an nurse I will wear compression stockings or socks for every single shift. Pain and discomfort due to my hard work as an RN is so not OK with me. I refuse to have future circulation and venous issues due to the fact that I worked hard as a nurse.

Are you a nurse concerned with effects of being on your feet all day? Have you tried wearing compression stockings?  What are your thoughts?  I love hearing from other nurses!

Sarah, Mother Nurse Love