Wednesday, 6 June 2012

Compression stockings: From beige to brilliant.

After multiple requests for information on where I purchased my colourful compression stockings I thought it was time to do a post.
(This is Jade, from the Juzo soft Winter range. 
More green in really life, but as you can see goes well with my girly floral dress from ASOS
You'd never know they are actually medical grade compression stockings.)

I should add this is not a sponsored post (mind you I wouldn't knock one of those back. It would be nice to be able to pay for my own coffee just once). Nor is it an exhaustive list of brands and options. Instead it is a starting point, based on my personal experience, for those considering compression stockings for the first time, and those tired of the regular range of stockings and looking for a bit of spice and colour in their compression wear. If anyone knows of any other brands offering a bit of fashion let me know and I'll update the post. Your treating doctor should be able to advise you as to whether compression stockings may be helpful for the management of your form of Dysautonomia and the strength and type of stockings you may require.

One of the most common recommendations to help manage Dysautonomia is to use compression garments, in particular compression stockings. As a woman in her 30s having to wear something that is more associated with the elderly is rather disheartening. It is even more disheartening when you start looking for a pair and find that the majority are rather unattractive shades of beige. Oh, you can get your hands on white or black and occasionally a navy, but that is about it for the majority of brands on the market.

Why do so many of these companies think that a) only the elderly or post surgical patients wear these products and b) that if you require them you must automatically lose all fashion sense? Even as a granny I'd want to rock some sexy legs. Illness and infirmity are bad enough without adding dowdy to the mix.

Luckily a few companies are now starting to realise that there is a huge untapped market of patients who want to feel attractive as well as prevent cankles and pooling. Whilst the market is improving there are still few companies who provide even a semblance of fashion sense for higher strength compression hosiery.

But before you get to purchasing your compression stockings there are a few things you need to consider.

1. What length do you need?

Compression garments come in a variety of lengths. At their most basic these are: waist high, thigh high and knee high socks. Waist high is most commonly recommended and what I started with. (Waist high ones do have the added bonus of working like Spanx and give you a perky bum and smooth out your saddle bags.) However, if like me you have chronic gastric issues and permanent abdominal pain, waist high stockings can be incredibly uncomfortable. I now choose thigh highs simply for the comfort factor and find that they still make a discernible improvement in my ability to function and remain upright.

You can also find toeless and footless compression stockings. Great if you want to wear thongs (flip flops for my US readers) in Summer. My only word of caution would be if like me, you have significant pooling issues and poor vascular flow, you can end up with very fat, very purple toes hanging out the bottom of your stockings. Not the most attractive look, or the healthiest option for your toes.

If you choose thigh highs or other non-full length options be aware that the band that holds up the stocking can be made from a range of products including silicon and latex. If you have allergies this may need to be taken into account.

Whilst this post is specifically about compression stockings it should be noted that there are also abdominal binders and a range of upper limb garments (love the fashionable range of full sleeves and gauntlets from LympheDivas and wish they did stockings as well, plus they now have an Australian distributor) which may be useful if your pooling extends to the upper body, and full body compression suits, similar to the G suits favoured by pilots.

2. What strength compression do you require?

Depending on your level of pooling you may require different levels of compression. Your treating doctor will be able to best advise you on the strength you require based upon your particular medical situation.

Compression levels are measured in mmHg which refers to millimetres of mercury. (One millimeter of mercury is approximately 1 torr, which is 1/760 of standard atmospheric pressure.)

For some, sports compression garments such as Skins may suffice. These are easily accessible both in store and online and may be a good starting point for those tossing up whether or not, compression garments may be for them. One thing to consider with these type of garments are the multiple seams in the structure of the garment. Whilst for many this may not be an issue, if your vascular flow is particularly poor or your skin is sensitive, these seams can leave bruises and sore spots, something I found out the hard way.

If you only need a small amount of compression (eg 15-20mmHg) there are more options available. For example, the UK company Happy Healthy Legs offer a range of lower strength fashionable compression stockings in the 15-20mmHg range. Other companies such as Rejuvahealth and Juzo also offer fashionable compression hosiery in this range.

Moderate strength (20-30mmHg) fashion options are available from both Rejuvahealth and Juzo. This is really the minimum strength recommended for Dysautonomia management.

Juzo were the only brand I came across that had higher strength (30-40mmHg) colourful compression stockings. Whilst there are even higher strength compression stockings available I haven't been able to find any that come in either bright colours or patterning.

If you want to compare a wide range of brands (more than I can cover in one post) and stocking types Compression Stockings.com is definitely a great starting point. I use them and it is also the company that I've heard the most positive feedback about from fellow patients.

3. Sizing.

Every brand has their own sizing. Check out their sites for instructions particular to each brand. If possible get someone else to measure for you. When I purchased my first pair of waist high Jobst stockings the pharmacist did the measurements. I had no idea how many they needed to take for accuracy. The tips I took from that early experience are: measure both legs separately (some people have one legs that is significantly different from the other) and measure twice or even more. I've also found that if your measurements cross over two sizings it pays to get the smaller size. With time and frequent use there will be some stretching.

Here in Australia if you are purchasing stockings for the first time and are unsure, most local chemists will be able to size and order them for you.

4. Cost.

Medical compression stockings are expensive. Pay with a kidney or first born son, type of expensive. So you want to work out exactly what you want and get your sizing right. Additionally, when buying certain products eg some of the Juzo soft coloured range, they are dyed for individual purchase and have a no refund or return policy.

Depending on your country of residence and insurance company, you can request a prescription from your doctor for your stockings and claim a set number of pairs under your insurance every year.

For those outside the US or UK you also need to factor in the postage when purchasing stockings online, and this can vary widely. For example, UK company Happy Healthy Legs charges a flat fee of £10 for international purchases, US company Compression Stockings.com which sells multiple brands and is a great starting point (also great customer service from my dealings with them), charge around $5 per item postage to Australia, whilst Rejuvahealth, also from the US charge a highly prohibitive rate of $39 for postage to Australia (I did contact the company about this, but they were adamant they were unable to make postage cheaper).

I would say that cost is indicative of quality when it comes to compression stockings. In the long term it can be more financially sound to buy one pair of the expensive stockings than to buy 10 pairs of cheaper versions that lose their compression quickly or have poor or haphazard compression.

5. Comfort.

Compression stockings, fashionable or otherwise aren't always comfortable. They are hot, which is one reason I put off wearing them for a long time. When your body temperature is already set at Sahara they can be stifling. Having said that, I do find even going to thigh high did help lessen that somewhat, and they are fine in the cooler months. Sometimes you have to weigh up the heat factor with how much of a difference they can make to your functioning.

They are hard to put on and it can be exhausting, especially when you have weakness and fatigue. There are devices you can buy to help with putting them on, most companies selling compression stockings offer these. There are also multiple how to's on the Internet and YouTube.

Once on I find I don't really notice them anymore. Especially when you are wearing them every day you get used to the feel.

6. Care.

Caring for your compression stockings is easy. You can hand wash them and then leave them in a warm shady spot to drip dry. Or if like me, you have minimal hand strength, simply put them in a lingerie bag and pop them in the washing machine on the delicates/gentle cycle.

To avoid snags when putting them on, remove or cover rings and check for sharp edges on nails.

7. Now to the most important part, fashion options.

Personally, I've been buying the Juzo Soft colour range from Compression Stockings.com. Their range do change based on the Northern Hemisphere seasons, and there is no guarantee that the same colours will be available the next season. If you are purchasing from Australia allow about 3 weeks for delivery of the coloured range eg violet and fuschia. Other traditional colours such as chocolate and shadow, are roughly a week from order to delivery. I now have cranberry and jade (from the Winter range) and chocolate, shadow and violet (from the Summer range) and am really happy with the vibrancy of the colours. They have been really well worn and washed repeatedly, and the colours have maintained their vibrancy and compression remains unchanged. They are a little long in the feet (I have tiny feet and long legs) but with some careful adjusting I can get them to sit and compress properly. This range is also one of the few that goes up to 30-40mmHg.

 (Love my new violet stockings from the Juzo soft Summer range.)
(Cranberry, from the Juzo soft Winter range. I wear these all the time.)

I love the Rejuvahealth range, and if I lived in the US would buy a few pairs. Who hasn't wished for some bright purple paisley compression stockings?  Or vintage lace? Their highest level of compression is 20-30mmHg. I don't have personal experience with these, so if any reader has, and can give some idea about quality and durability that would be great.

(photos from Rejuvahealth)

I have wondered about dying a pair of traditional beige or white compression stockings. I'd love a tie-dyed pair in funky rainbow colours. If anyone has tried this or has any suggestions on how to do this please let me know. (see Juzo soft tie-dyed in Update below).

Or, if it's possible to add some small appliqué to add detail, without messing with the compression?

So there you go. A small starting point to finding some fashionable compression stockings. Hopefully more companies will come to the table and offer more fashionable options, not only in stockings but other devices that the ill or disabled require. We may be unwell but we still want and deserve to look fabulous.

Cheers
Michelle :)

NB: I have also purchased compression stockings from Jobst in regular black and they too are a great quality brand. The have maintained their compression and look good as new even after 2yrs wear. 

Update: Juzo Soft now do a fabulous range of tie-dyed stockings with either colour background white pattern or black background coloured pattern. I purchased a scarlet with white pattern earlier this year and must say I love them. 



Update: Chic Compressions are now doing  Mediven swarovski crystal encrusted compression stockings (highest rating 23-32mmHg) with a choice of 13 and in 3 crystal patterns, Opera, Fanfare and Symphony (shown below). A little on the pricey side but fantastic for that special occasion. So for example if I picked Size I, thigh high with lace top, in vivo, with fanfare crystal embellishment it would cost £117.50 ($209.75 AUD) not including postage. So really only a special occasion eg wedding stocking.


 (Fanfare)
 (Opera)
(Symphony)

Svigardis also have patterned in higher level compression. For example: Allure Patterned Thigh High 20-30mmHg in Indigo below.






And you can't talk about fashion without a bit of classic David Bowie.

32 comments:

  1. Nice to see some companies are making awesome funky coloured stockings, i've tried wearing normal coloured stockings over the top, but it gets too hot! I've always wanted to tie dye or just plain dye my compression stockings as well, but worried it might mess up the compression somehow. Hmm, guess i can always test dye my old ones when it's time to buy them new again and get back to you?!

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    1. Let me know how it goes Azaleah. I tried the stockings over stockings too, but as you say, it's so hot. Hope you are feeling a bit better than when we last spoke. Thinking of you (big, but gentle, hugs)

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  2. Wow, I did not know that they came in different colors! I've only seen tan and white. I've been needing to buy new pairs of compression stockings too, so I think I will give Juzo a try!

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    1. Let me know how you go with them Nikki. It's so nice to have a bit of colour and so far no one has picked that my Juzo's are medical compression stockings!

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  3. My god, thank you for this post. I have put off purchasing compression stocking because 1. My doctor was of no help. He just said I needed waist high and could maybe wear the sports kind but probably needed something more. He suggested I just "figure it out". 2. They are heinous. I had some dear friends and even another Dr. who doesn't know POTS suggests SPANX but I finally just gave up. Thank you for keeping the hope alive. And I own a tie dye kit I have been meaning to use with my son, so who knows?

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    1. Just "figure it out", nice. That's why we pay them the big bucks. I know when I first started wearing them my doctor did tell me the strength I needed, but that was about it. The rest I had to figure out myself. So now I'm on a mission to share what I know and banish those ugly stockings for all of us.

      If you do tie dye some let me know how they go, or better yet send photos.

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  4. Thank you for sharing this I will find this very handy :)

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  5. i needed this post today michelle, to cheer me up. like you the waist highs are out of the question. when my potsie dr recommended the waist highs i mentioned my stomach/bowel problems, he frowned, we arent easy to please, one size doesnt fit all. the awful sand coloured material, yuck. the lovely colours you show are instant cheer ups. the bonus being one of the companies are in the u.k. shall take a look thanks. hope your doing ok, probably a silly question to ask!!! hope this makes sense, due to the fact ive very overheated today and not with it. xxx

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    1. So glad the post cheered you up. Hope you found some colours/styles that you like, Em. We aren't easy to please, but at least there are some more options now. I just wish they were better advertised. Hope Summer isn't taking too much of a toll on you. Wish I could send you some of our cooler weather. (hugs)

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  7. Posting for Mary:

    I also have gastric issues with waist-high compression, but was having trouble getting the thigh-high ones to stay up (my legs are too long and scrawny). Solution? *Maternity* tall-size compression stockings. Yes, it's ridiculous, but when something works, who cares about ridiculous? I also usually put a pair of toeless thigh-highs on underneath since the maternity stockings are 15-20mmHg which is not enough for me - the thigh-highs stay up well with the full-length stockings over the top.

    Also: brightlifedirect.com has less-expensive house-brand (Allegro) compression stockings that basically look a lot like the shiny kind of pantyhose/nylons (although slightly more opaque; but a *lot* of people have been surprised that they're compression stockings), and, for me, they are fantastic (cooler, heat-wise, than a normal pair of tights, even when I'm wearing two layers of them, not itchy to me, not fuzzy, hard to snag). They're also more "cheap pair of shoes" than "kidney" priced, which is great if you're not sure about compression stockings (or, um, if you're just low on cash).
    -------------------------

    Anyway, thank you so much for your blog; it is fantastic to be able to read an upbeat "this sucks" as I flail through this. (I also just bought my Very First Wheelchair, but it's blue)

    Hope your week goes well!

    - Mary

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  8. Hooray! Purple paisley granny hose! I would totally wear them or anything in a shade of purple, red, pink, blue or grey. I live in South Dakota, USA, where it is freezing cold nine months out of the year, so people here would just assume I was wearing regular tights. I find compression hose very painful to wear, like having a boa constrictor squeeze the life out of me. But I would be less resentful if they looked better :0)

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    1. "Like having a boa constrictor squeeze the life out of me", so true. I'm more used to them now but especially the waist highs are horrid. I figure if we have to wear them we should at least be able to look a little spiffy in the process :)

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  9. thanks for nice outfits. your clothing style is really cool!!!!!!
    Animal Print Dress

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  10. Thanks for the info. My doctor has recently recommended that I start wearing compression to help with my OH. I'm not thrilled considering I usually run really hot. I've just started my journey and your blog has been very helpful! Thank you!!

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  11. Have been using compression thigh highs for a few months now - and thanks Michelle for the info that helped me get going. The first day, with the first pair, was amazing. I was still walking light in the evening instead of dragging lumps of lead around.
    Two things which may help others. I tend to retain fluid when I am getting worse. This has meant that the stockings which were comfortable in the morning become vile pythons on my legs. If I look like it is that kind of day I have a lower compression pair which I use.
    And to help with the budget: I keep an eye on the compressionstockings.com website. They have a clearance list of items and you can sometimes find your size there. I haven't found the splendid colours but as a way to get started it has been helpful.
    These have made day to day life heaps better for me so its worth all the effort of getting the damn things on each morning

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    1. I check out their clearance too Bea. They do have some good bargains though they tend to be the more basic varieties of stockings. I tend to wear the 20-30mmHg normally, but if bad tend to go up to 30-40mmHg, though they are hard to get on and I have at times sublaxed or dislocated my thumb joints. I do know some people who go from thigh highs to waist highs on bad days to give the abdominal compression too, personally I couldn't stand the stomach compression so wont be doing that. So many different tricks for us all. I will say in the lower compression (around 15mmhg) there are far more options fashionwise particularly for those who only wear knee highs.

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  12. Thank you so much for this post and the blog!!!

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  13. Thanks for the detailed write up! Are you aware of any companies that offer thigh high compression stockings that do not have the elastic (latex, silicone, etc) in the legs - meaning the ones that are worn with a garter belt? The full length are a disaster for me - but the knee highs don't do enough. And I can't use thigh high stay-ups. Thanks!!

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  14. Nice article. I wasn't 100% sure about what strength I needed but this helped a lot!

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  15. Hello......why is it impossible to buy heelless /stirrup stockings in Oz as well? Are they so difficult to make ? The only thing I can do now is to cut out a heel space but without the proper binding edge they become uncomfortable to wear as the cut digs into the back of the heel. Cheers

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    1. The way the compression is distributed, particularly in higher strength mean that you can end up cutting off circulation in feet and heels. I know that is why you rarely find higher strength footless as well. The chances of causing more problems is higher. Toeless work as the main compression starts at the ankle and reduces as it flows up the leg. Though if you're like me and have really poor peripheral return toeless are hopeless too as I just end up with purple swollen sausages hanging out the end where my toes should be. I would love to see more research into compressionwear in general to account for more of our needs.

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  16. Hi, I am a 1st time buyer of compression stockings in Florida. Any brand/style suggestions that have thin, lightweight material in a thigh high style? Thanks!

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    1. Hmmm. Most brands will have a thigh high option, lightweight is harder. You can get loads of sheer options which are more delicate (though that's a snag waiting to happen for me). All of them are hot, though I find thigh high less hot and I tend to sptriz the stockings with water in Summer. I wear Juzo Soft primarily as I find them more comfortable, but that can depend on the person and shape of their legs. They are heavier but the comfort factor sort of outweighs that for me. We're heading into the proper heat of Summer heat here (we're in the 30-40C kind of weather) and I'm still wearing them.

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  17. I recently been diagnosed with POTS and my doctor told me I need to wear compression socks. but after reading I don't think the socks will help so I am looking at thigh highs or waist high but upon looking I saw compression pants for exercise do you know if that will help? I had gastric surgery in may lost from 320lbs to 180 in six months and they said I lost to much weight to fast but I had a lot of complications and BAM POTS hit me YAY....I wonder if the compression exercise pants would work if I wore socks too?

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    1. Depending on the brand it can be hard to find a medical level grade of compression in sports wear (although I think 2XU do a 20-30mmhg compression legging or similar). I do know some people who love compression socks. For me it's not enough but I have fairly significant pooling and poor venous return so I can't do less than thigh high. Do you have a medical shop near you where you can get advice and proper sizing? That may be your best bet if you do. Overall the a basic advice is wait high stockings 20-30mmHg minimum, 30-40mmHg preferred, but for many of us we simply can't wear that and it can be a bit of trial and error to find what works. You could try the socks and see how you can, you can often pick up a decent pair on sale for a pretty good price. I should mention some people do use abdominal binders but I'd probably check with your doctor if you've had recent abdominal surgery.

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  18. Hey gorgeous, after a discussion with my exercise physiologist (and handing over the equivalent of a car payment for the privilege, OY!) I am now trawling your blog for info on compression stockings... thigh high thankyouverymuch. So this post shall be open in my browser for like, I dunno, a month maybe? While I scrape together the cashola.

    Damn girl, you are a wealth of knowledge. Who knew I would need it all?

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    1. Ask me my pin number or phone number and I'd likely be stumped. But compression stockings I know a bit about. All the important things right? If you ever have questions just ask I've got a heap of posts on here about them but if you want to know more let me know. :)

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  19. This information is super helpful! I love your detail about different styles and strengths. I also wrote about my experience with compression stockings here: https://gonetopots.com/compression-stockings/

    Feel free to check it out :)

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    1. Thanks. I've got a fair few posts about compression stockings on here, including reviews, latest styles, where to buy, cut prices etc.

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