This stocking’s too tight. This one’s too loose. This one’s juuust right. Sometimes searching for the right compression stocking can make me feel like Goldilocks. But finding a stocking that fits well, looks decent and prevents swelling is no fairy tale. It is possible.
First, you have to learn how to recognize the feel of a good compression stocking fit. Compression stockings are designed to improve the way the body feels (and operates). They should make you feel better, not worse. My happiest days of the year are the days I crack open a new pair of compression stockings.
So what do I feel, when I pull on a pair of stockings that are juuust right?
Relief. Lighter-weight. Energized.
Over the years, I have ordered plenty of stockings that are not right for one reason or other. These are some of the feelings I experienced, when trying on stockings that were not the right match for me:
- Increased swelling
- Rapid heart rate
Those stockings went back in the box to the distributor faster than you can say, “Ouch!”
So how do you find compression stockings that are right for you?
Don’t go it alone. Consult a lymphedema specialist. The best part about lymphedema specialists is that they aren’t doctors. That means you get all the help without the condescending attitude.
Lymphedema specialists are amazingly knowledgeable (and in my experience very caring) people who can advise you on your proper compression level and stocking length and size. In other words, they know the technical stuff.
A good place to start your search for a therapist near you is the National Lymphedema Network’s easy-to-use database.
Once you are clear on your stocking must-haves, it’s your turn to figure out your stocking would-like-to-haves.
Comfort. Unfortunately, the thicker the stocking, usually the less comfortable that stocking will be. But if your lymphedema is on the moderate end of the spectrum, you might be able to contain your swelling with thinner fabric and achieve a more comfortable fit. Take a look at Juzo Soft, Jobst Opaque, and Mediven Comfort. They look and feel like regular tights, but are also just as delicate, so durability is the trade-off for comfort.
Appearance. Sheer compression stockings are a bit of an oxymoron, so beware. They have never provided sufficient support for me. If your lymphedema is mild, you might be able to tolerate sheer stockings for a special night out. Test them at home ahead of time. In the middle of a blind date or a black tie dinner is not the ideal time to discover that you are wearing insufficient compression.
Cost. If your wallet is your number one consideration, then choosing the most durable, longest-lasting option would make sense. That would mean the thickest fabric. See “effectiveness” above. When comparing prices, keep in mind the aphorism, “you get what you pay for.”
No matter which stocking you choose, always check the material content to avoid potential allergic reaction.
And if off-the-shelf stockings don’t do the trick for you, then talk to your lymphedema specialist about custom-made options that will allow you to live “happily ever after.”