Agape Physical Therapy

What is compression therapy, how does it work, and who can benefit from it?

Do you or someone you know ever struggle with lymphedema or swelling, aching and/or heavy legs, or the presence of varicose veins or “spider veins”? If so, compression therapy may help!

The lymphatic system, in large, is important for the optimal functioning of our immune system, as the lymphatic system is vital in producing white blood cells that stave off infections and other diseases. The lymphatic system is complementary to the circulatory system, in that it functions to maintain healthy fluid balances within the body tissues by removing excess fluids that leak from the blood vessels.

Wearing compression stockings daily has been shown to decrease fatigue and pain in the legs and feet due to swelling or lymphedema. Without effective compression therapy, chronic venous diseases can develop, leading to worsening fatigue, pain, and fluid accumulation in the legs if left untreated. Sufferers of chronic venous disease are great candidates for compression therapy. 

What is compression therapy and how does it work?

Compression therapy ultimately helps to decrease swelling and pain in the legs by improving blood flow in the lower extremities; thus, strengthening venous circulation and improving efficiency of the lymphatic system to drain waste and excess fluid from tissues in the body.

In addition to providing pain relief associated with lymphedema or swelling, compression therapy is also highly effective for wound and ulcer management by reducing overall healing time. Compression therapy improves circulation and provides tissue oxygenation in order to accelerate wound healing, and may help to prevent development of venous ulcers.

Who Can Benefit from Compression Therapy?

For people with lymphedema or swelling, compression therapy is a highly preferred treatment for symptom management. Compression stockings should be worn during the day when in standing and with physical activity/exercise, and removed just before going to bed. Stockings should then be put on again first thing in the morning. Compression therapy can have numerous benefits for individuals in a wide variety of settings when used as directed. 

  • People who stand all day at work may utilize compression to help reduce fatigue, pain, or swelling by increasing blood and oxygen flow in the legs and feet when standing for long durations during the day.
  • Athletes may wear compression on their legs, arms or hands to help improve blood flow and oxygen delivery with strenuous physical activity. 
  • Pregnant women may wear compression stockings to reduce the chances of swelling in their legs, feet or ankles during pregnancy.
  • Compression may be indicated for individuals who cannot leave their bed or are confined to a wheelchair to help improve blood flow, reduce swelling, and decrease risk for ulcerations or wounds.
  • Airplane passengers may elect to wear compression socks to help increase circulation and reduce their risk of developing deep vein thrombosis or blood clots when traveling.
  • Compression therapy helps to prevent the development of a deep vein thrombosis (blood clot) in the legs, and is often necessary for patients following surgery to prevent blood from pooling in the veins of the lower extremities.
Adam Stearns, PT, DPT, CLT
Physical Therapist
Certified Lymphedema Therapist
[email protected]
Adam Stearns is a Physical Therapist with over eight years of experience in the clinical field. Adam specializes in lymphedema therapy and management, and received his certification from the Norton School of Lymphatic Therapy in 2019. Adam invests in the needs of his patients, and uses his positive attitude and determination to encourage his clients to work hard and achieve their goals. In his free time, Adam enjoys writing and playing music, exercising, playing video games, and rescuing stray cats.