Benefits of Compression Therapy

Medically Reviewed by Carmelita Swiner, MD on May 16, 2023
3 min read

Compression therapy means using compression socks, stockings, boots, or bandages to apply gentle pressure to the leg. Doctors have prescribed compression therapy for thousands of years, as far back as Hippocrates of ancient Greece. Modern science continues to discover new benefits of compression therapy.

‌When you are sitting or standing, the veins in your legs must fight gravity to move blood back to your heart. Compression therapy gently squeezes the leg, which helps blood flow faster and keep moving in the right direction.‌

‌In order to push blood back up toward the heart, the veins in your legs have valves that only allow blood to move in one direction. Sometimes these valves wear out and let the blood pool in the veins. This can lead to varicose veins, swollen and twisted veins that can cause pain and a heavy, achy feeling in your legs.

Compression stockings can help reduce the discomfort and swelling that varicose veins cause. After varicose vein treatment, compression therapy may help prevent you from getting new varicose veins.

‌Pressure from compression socks can keep fluid from leaking out of small blood vessels in your legs. It can help prevent swelling when you must sit or stand still for long periods of time. For example, some people wear them on long airplane flights or if they stand on their feet a lot at work. ‌

‌Compression therapy can also help treat swelling. When there is extra fluid in your legs, compression helps your body absorb it.

Swelling in your feet and ankles is also a common side effect of pregnancy. If you are pregnant, check with your doctor about wearing compression tights to reduce swelling and leg discomfort.

Orthostatic hypotension is when your blood pressure drops when you stand up. It can make you feel dizzy (like the room is spinning), lightheaded (like you might faint), or nauseous (like you might throw up). 

‌‌If you have this problem a lot, your doctor might recommend thigh-high or waist-high compression hose. Compression therapy can keep blood from pooling in your legs, which is what causes orthostatic hypotension. 

‌One study even found that pregnant women had less morning sickness and dizziness when they wore compression stockings.‌

‌If you are in the hospital for a long time or have surgery that keeps you off your feet for a while, you are at a higher risk of developing deep vein thrombosis. This is when you get a blood clot or clots in a deep vein. Deep vein thrombosis can have serious consequences. 

Compression therapy makes it less likely that you will get a blood clot while you are in the hospital.‌ You might also need to wear compression stockings when you go home from the hospital and as you recover.

Travelers are also at a greater risk of developing a blood clot because they are seated for long periods of time. You are three times more likely to have problems with blood clots while flying than at other times. Your risk goes up even higher on longer flights.

‌Compression socks can lower your risk of blood clots while traveling. They can also reduce swelling and leg discomfort which are common on long flights.

‌Ulcers are open wounds on the skin that can be hard to heal. Leg ulcers can be caused by:‌

‌Compression therapy is a very effective treatment for leg ulcers. It helps heal ulcers by improving blood flow. During the healing process, compression therapy reduces the symptoms of leg ulcers, such as pain, swelling, and itching. 

Up to 97% of people who have had leg ulcers will get another leg ulcer in the future. Compression therapy can help keep you from getting new leg ulcers.‌‌