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Nurse Confessions – Why I Love My Compression Socks

Compression Socks
Vojtech Vlk/123RF.com

I swore I would never do it. Ever. I didn’t care what anyone else said – I was never going to wear compression hose. Compression socks are for old ladies with too many cats and waitresses with big hair who complained about varicose veins – not me.

After all, I still have sexy high heels that I pull out on occasion (ok, not that often, but they look cute in my closet), and I possess a lovely assortment of frankly adorable work socks: Stethoscopes, EKG patterns and even a pair with dogs and stethoscopes (don’t judge). Pairing those with my cheetah print shoes, my foot apparel was quite cute, at least in comparison to my plain Jane navy blue scrubs.

But as I wandered through a scrubs store recently, I came across a cute pair of knee-highs that were actually compression socks. And, I admit, I was curious. What was the appeal of compression socks, and why were some of my peers raving about them? These are young friends, too, and not ones old enough to get solicited by AARP, not that I’ve been solicited yet. Well, maybe once, but I’m pretty sure it was a data glitch because there is no freaking way I’m old enough for AARP to set their sights on me.

What are compression socks?

Compression socks for nurses (and other folks who stand all day) aren’t those graduated cylinders we tug on patients to prevent DVT’s. These are hose and socks (usually knee highs) that are specially designed to help prevent and alleviate leg pain, swelling, and varicose veins. They provide external pressure to help the leg muscles and veins restore normal blood flow, and they reduce venous pressure in the legs.

So I bought a pair, but just one, because these puppies were pricey when compared to my usual $6-8 a pair. At double the cost (slightly less online), I was skeptical. When I looked online I found a plethora of styles and patterns that had me drooling – plus footless compression hose (think really snug legwarmers) that one could wear with regular socks and still get the benefits.

Nurse compression socks typically feature graduated compression, which simply means the greatest amount of compression is in the ankle and less in the calf area. The goal is that by helping to improve circulation, the nurse’s legs will still feel great at the end of a 12-hour shift.

The research

A medical device company actually did the research to determine if compression socks made a difference amongst the tired masses of overworked nurses. Hospital nurses who worked 12-hour shifts were given compression socks to wear and determine if they made a difference when compared to traditional cotton socks. The results were impressive – 84 percent of the participants noticed a symptomatic improvement in leg health, and ¾ of the nurses saw a decrease in the swelling of their legs after wearing compression stockings.

The verdict?

I love these socks a ridiculous amount. I could tell a difference the first night I wore them. My legs felt peppier, and even after I peeled them off when I got home, my legs weren’t achy and sore. I’m hooked.

Not all compression socks are the same – and prices range from $20-$50. Your mileage may vary, and I can’t speak to what your toes might find delightful. But as for me and my formerly tired legs, I’m a convert. I’m still not getting a cat, but I might start teasing my hair – just a little.

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About Angie Best-Boss RN

Angie Best-Boss, ASN, BA, MDiv is a psychiatric nurse and freelance writer from the Indianapolis, Indiana area. Angie has three daughters and can usually be found with her nose in a book, crafting or, in warm weather, geocaching.