3 Ways Compression Socks And Stockings Help Nurses

3 Ways Compression Socks And Stockings Help Nurses

(This post contains affiliate links.  See our disclosure page for for information.  Post updated 7/29/19).

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:

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