Compression Stockings: How to Use Them

Skip Navigation

Overview

Compression stockings:

  • Help improve blood flow.
  • Help keep blood from pooling in the legs.
  • Help relieve symptoms caused by varicose veins, skin ulcers, and deep vein thrombosis.
  • Help skin ulcers heal and help prevent them from coming back.
  • Will help the most if you wear them every day while you're awake, especially while you're on your feet.

Specially fitted compression stockings are tight at the feet with a gradually looser fit on the leg. Because there are different types, it's best to use the kind that your doctor recommends and that work best for you.

How do you use compression stockings?

Compression stockings can be a part of your daily routine. If they fit right, they should be snug but comfortable.

It's best to wear them all the time, unless you are bathing or sleeping. Plan on replacing your stockings every 3 to 6 months.

At first, putting on a pair of compression stockings can be tricky. But with some practice, you'll find what works for you. Here are some tips.

  • Hand-wash new stockings after you buy them.

    It will make them more flexible and easier to put on. Consider buying a second pair, if you can afford it. That way, you'll have a clean pair to wear while you wash the other.

  • Put a dressing on any open wound before putting on the compression stockings.
  • Keep your stockings by your bed.

    Then you can put them on when you first get up.

  • Wear rubber gloves to help you grip the fabric, if you need to.
  • Put silicone lotion or cornstarch on your legs.

    This will help the stockings slide on. If your stockings contain latex, or you aren't sure if they contain latex, do not use other types of lotions or creams on your legs when you wear the stockings. You may use other lotions or creams when you are not wearing the stockings.

  • Put them on early in the morning.

    This is when you have the least swelling in your legs.

    1. Sit in a chair with a back. This gives you something to lean against as you put on the stockings.
    2. Hold the top of the stocking with one hand. Then with your other hand, reach inside the stocking and push your arm all the way in and grab the heel.
    3. When you have a firm grip on the heel, pull your hand back up through the stocking, turning it inside out as far as the heel.
    4. Put your toe in as far as it will go. Then center your heel in the stocking and pull it up slightly, just around your heel.
    5. Use both hands to grasp the folded part of the stocking about 2 inches below the fold. Pull that section up over your ankle. Be careful not to grab and pull at the top of the stocking because that can cause it to tear.
    6. Again, grasp the folded part of the stocking about 2 inches below the fold. Pull that section up.
    7. Continue pulling the stocking up in short sections until it is in its final position. This depends on the stocking. The final position may be just below your knee. Or it might be above your knee.
    8. Run your hands over the stocking to smooth it out.
  • If it is difficult to put on your stockings, ask for help.

    Ask your doctor or a medical supplier for advice. They may recommend a tool that can make it easier to put your stockings on.

Call your doctor if:

  • Your toes get numb or painful or turn dark.
  • Your skin is irritated.

Explore more

Credits

Current as of: March 28, 2022

Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review:
E. Gregory Thompson MD - Internal Medicine
Adam Husney MD - Family Medicine
Anne C. Poinier MD - Internal Medicine




The Health Encyclopedia contains general health information. Not all treatments or services described are covered benefits for Kaiser Permanente members or offered as services by Kaiser Permanente. For a list of covered benefits, please refer to your Evidence of Coverage or Summary Plan Description. For recommended treatments, please consult with your health care provider.