Many clients seek our guidance regarding compression stockings, and what should be substituted if they can’t get what was prescribed. As well, some are confused about the merits and demerits of their use, hence this article today. Compression stockings have “gradients” of pressure sewn in them, and the highest degree of pressure is at the ankle. They are recommended for:
- Those who have swelling in the feet, ankles or legs
- Use during pregnancy
- Persons with varicose veins
- Those who stand or sit for long periods
- Those who are overweight
- Persons with a history of poor circulation, blood clots, or other venous insufficiency
- Persons with particular types of ulcers.
Decreased blood flow to the extremities creates a range of problems, beginning with leg fatigue, pain and swelling, up to varicose veins and blood clots. These stockings induce better blood flow, reducing the incidence of these problems. Many people fall into the criteria of those who should wear them, and once they try the stockings, become regular users once the size is correct. A number of persons do complain though that it’s restricting and a ‘work out’ to put on, hence they are not motivated to wear them.
When buying your first pair, here are a few things to get you started:
Degree of pressure
On the packaging you may find there are degrees of pressure, such as 15-21 mmHg, 21-30 mmHg, and 30-40 mmHg. The higher the number, the more pressure is sewn in at the foot and ankle, and the higher the pressure, the harder it is to get them on too, as stated earlier. Although they start at 8-15 mmHg, the most popular pressure is 15-21 mmHg, since it gives good pressure control and is not so hard to get on. The first time you put them on is the most difficult. It gets easier after it is stretched from the first wearing or two.
Sizing is based upon a combination of measurements, including circumference of the ankle, calf, thigh, and length of distance from heel to knee. The higher up the leg the stockings must go, the more measurements are needed. Shoe size is sometimes included in the measurements, but the toe area of the stockings usually has good wiggle room for larger feet.
Since these stockings are not inexpensive, it would be in your best interest to measure before you buy from the chart on the packaging. An easy way to do this is to take a relative or friend and tape measure with you, in case the store where you buy them doesn’t have a store clerk who knows what to do (which is usually the case). Look at the back of the packaging, and see which measurements are required, then have your relative or friend do the measuring.
Most of us have some measurements in one size category, and other measurements in another size. Rarely do all the measurements go straight down the line on one size. If you have an equal number of measurements in 2 categories, for instance, 2 measurements that render a medium size and 2 that are in the large category, round up to the larger size.
To be safe, you might purchase just 1 pair the first time; when you are certain it fits well, buy more. Most stores don’t let you return or exchange items like this.
As indicated previously, compression stocking aren’t cheap. The stockings that feature very low pricing usually do not have gradient pressure at all; rather, they are “stretchable” stockings, having the feeling of pressure while providing the least amount of pressure at the swollen areas. This is the opposite of what is needed.
Look at the package before you buy it! Be sure you have the degree of pressure you want as well as the type and colour. You don’t want to leave with black pantyhose if you wanted a pair of beige knee-highs… Happy shopping!