Compression stockings have been used for over 160 years, since they were patented in 1848. Over the years, compression stockings have been come a long way.
Compression stockings deliver a controlled amount of pressure, greatest at the ankle and gradually decrease it towards the top of the stocking (gently squeeze the legs to move blood up); they improve blood flow and decrease leg pain and assist in preventing swelling and, to a lesser extent, blood clots.
So wearing stockings helps with:
- Aching and heavy feeling in legs
- Swelling in legs
- Preventing blood clots, especially after surgery or injury when you are less active
Your compression stockings should be felt strong around your legs. You will feel the most pressure around your ankles and less pressure higher up your legs.
The most important things about compression stockings are to wear them consistently and replace them regularly. Over time, any compression clothing will lose its elasticity and its effectiveness. Compression stockings last for about 4-6 months with proper care. A prescription for compression therapy is good for one year. You may need to be remeasured every year.
Wearing Compression Stockings
Compression stockings are designed to fit tightly. It may take time and practice to get used to putting on these items correctly.
Here are some tricks you can use to put on your stocking:
- Put on stockings first thing in the morning before you get out of bed. Your legs have the least amount of swelling early in the morning.
- Easy-Slide is a nylon sleeve you put on your leg before donning your stocking. The ripstop nylon is very slippery and makes it much easier to don high compression stocking.
- Gently pull the compression stocking up your leg, smoothing the extra material as you pull. Make sure the heel is in the correct position and the seams are straight. If you are putting on a thigh-high or longer stocking, stand up to continue pulling it over your knee, hips and waist.
- Compression stockings should be smooth, especially at the ankle or behind the knee. Do not roll knee-high or thigh-high compression stockings at the top. Do not fold the stocking down if it seems too long.
- Try wearing rubber gloves, like those sold for household cleaning .The rubber gloves make it easier to grip the material firmly and smooth out wrinkles. The rubber gloves also protect the compression clothing from tears caused by your fingernails .If you get a tear or run, then the stocking does not give you the necessary compression.
- Apply talcum powder or baby powder to your leg to make the stocking go on more smoothly. If you use a lotion of any kind, be sure it is dry before putting your stockings on.
- If you have difficulty bending at the waist, consider using a stocking donner. Stocking donners or butlers are metal frames with handles on each side. You slide the stocking onto the frame, and then step into the stocking. Pulling up on the handles, pulls the stocking up your leg.
- Have a friend or family member help you with putting on the stockings and taking them off.
- If you don’t wear your compression stockings for a day or two, it may be difficult to put them on. If your limb swells too much and you cannot get the stockings on because they are too tight, you may need to bandage the limb.
Caring for Compression Stockings
Wash the stocking every other day by hand with a gentle detergent like a mild soap and warm water, allowing them to air dry on a flat surface before using them again. This will help them keep their elasticity and provide proper support for your legs.
You can wash also in the gentle cycle in the washing machine.
As with any item made of fabric, it will last longer if it is hand washed and air dried.
It may be convenient to have two compression stockings so you have one to wear while the other is being washed or dried. Order the second stocking after you are sure that the fit of your first one is correct.
And finally, wash them daily or every other day. This removes dirt and oils from your skin that can break-down the spandex, and it returns the stocking to its original shape and size.
FAQ: frequently asked questions
How many hours daily should I wear my stockings?
The wearing time for gradient compression stockings is dependent on both the reason for wearing the compression and the amount of compression. A doctor is the best guide for this.
Bed-bound patients may be advised by their doctors to wear anti-embolism stockings (16-18 mmHg) to prevent blood clots from forming in the deep veins of the leg.
Immediately following sclerotherapy doctors may instruct you to wear a specific level of compression continuously for a specified number of hours or days depending on the size of the veins injected.
Individuals with lymphedema are advised to follow the wearing schedule recommended by their doctor or therapist.
Individuals with chronic venous problems such as venous related leg swelling, skin changes, or varicose veins, generally wear the compression stockings while out of bed (approximately 16 hours per day) and remove them when retiring.
?What is the problem when a knee length stockings cut into the back of the knee. Would a shorter length help
The band of a correct fitting knee high should stop about two finger widths below the crease of the knee. Most times if a stocking is uncomfortable at the knee, it is due to overstretching the fabric while pulling on the stockings. If this occurs, evenly redistribute the fabric downward on the leg using rubber gloves. There should be no wrinkles in the stockings. If redistributing the fabric does not solve the problem, you may need a petite or short size.
With the warmer weather, I have experienced a rash on my skin that is exposed to the silicone band on my thigh high stockings. What causes this
and what can you suggest to prevent and help heal the rash
The rash most often results from the entrapment of moisture between the silicone and the skin. During warmer weather or physical exertion, the skin sweats. The moisture on your leg cannot evaporate due to the presence of the silicone, thus becoming trapped.
Treatment is symptomatic – cooling and drying the area – avoiding conditions that induce sweating are the best approach. Over-the-counter corticosteroid lotions can be used. However, changes in the environment (cool/dry air) and lighter clothing are often more effective.
To help prevent the rash from occurring, make sure the skin is clean and dry before donning the stockings. It is also important to wash the stockings after each wearing to remove any skin oils and cells that collect on the stocking and band.
If the rash continues, discontinue wearing stockings with a silicone band until the warm humid weather changes. You should consult with your doctor if you have drainage from the rash or the rash persists.
?What compression level should I wear
If you have been told to wear a compression garment by your doctor or therapist, she or he should have told you what compression level you need, to treat your specific condition. Wearing compression over 20mmHg is not recommended unless it has been prescribed for you.
What compression should I wear to travel?
Assuming you don’t have any venous issues, a compression of 15-20mmHg is recommended for travelling.
How do I stop my knee highs from rolling down?
Knee high stockings typically roll for two reasons: they are too long, or stretched too tight at the top.
If the top of your stocking is pulled up into the crease of your knee, the movement of your leg will cause it to roll. When putting on your stockings, pull the top-band up so its 1-2 finger widths below the crease of your knee. (The stocking doesn’t have to be stretched out to be effective.) If there are wrinkles, smooth them out with the palms of your hands. If you can’t smooth out all the wrinkles, you need a short (petite) length stocking.
If your stocking is too small for your leg, it will often roll.
If neither of these reasons are the cause, try a knee high with a silicone top-band.
The band on my thigh highs irritates my skin, what can I do?
Often a skin reaction to silicone bands is caused by rubbing or friction, not from a reaction to the silicone itself. There are 3 styles of silicone band: stripes, dots and Sensinnov (Sigvaris.) If one style irritates your skin, switching to another style may eliminate the problem. The Sensinnov band is particularly “skin friendly.”
If the irritation is caused by a reaction to the silicone, you will use a garter belt to keep the stockings in place.
?How can I get compression stockings
There are different types of compression stockings, and each type is used for different reasons. It needs to measure the leg for the correct size stocking. It is best to do this measurement in the morning, when your leg is least swollen, to get the most accurate measurement.
?What kind of compression stockings are available
The level of tightness in compression stockings is measured in millimeters of mercury (mm Hg).
Your health care provider will indicate this on your prescription.
Compression stockings come in different styles: knee-high, thigh-high, or full-length. They are available in more fashionable fabrics than in the past.
This essay is translated by Mojgan Salmani