Me & My Compression Stockings

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Fair warning this post is long, but hopefully helpful! The following are my two cents on compression stockings after wearing them for 10+ years. It’s my experience with them and while I think I have a few useful things to share, please do not take this as a be-all, end-all. Every person with lymphedema has different needs when it comes to the size/compression/brand/model/etc. of compression stockings (and you should always seek out the advice of a professional before ordering a pair). As always, this is just my story, but I hope that it can help you figure out your own :)

Compression stockings, compression stockings, how I love to hate thee.

I definitely have a love/hate relationship with my compression stockings. On the one hand I hate wearing them because I feel like I’m wearing medical socks on my legs and I don’t feel normal, but on the other hand they work — compression stockings for me are by far the most effective tool I have in my lymphedema tool box.

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When I first started wearing stockings roughly 13 years ago, I wore what I think everyone who was diagnosed with lymphedema at least 10 years ago did — circular-knit stockings. I wore Juzo, Jobst and Sigvaris. I didn’t have a preference, just whatever was available at the time. I also wore off-the-shelf stockings — although my PT brought up custom stockings at one point, I think they were dismissed as being too expensive.

At first I insisted on wearing the open-toed stockings. I thought for sure my toes would feel restricted in the close-toed. (the below are flat-knit open-toed stockings.)

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But then I finally crossed over. Thank Jesus. You might think that the close-toed would be restricting, but really they’re liberating. With the open-toed they were constantly rolling up my feet and I always felt like my toes swelled up like little sausages (my swelling is primarily in my ankles/feet/toes). The close-toed, on the other hand, are just like wearing a sock. No longer did I have to worry what kind of shoe I was wearing.

Well, not exactly. You can’t physically wear close-toed stockings with flip flops, and they look funny with open-toed sandals. But anyway, I digress.

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Over the years I got really lazy at wearing my stockings. I mean really lazy. And I was full of excuses. In the colder months I wore my stockings a couple times a week, and in the warmer months…yeah no that never happened. I didn’t keep up with buying new stockings as often as I should (translation: I wore stretched out stockings) and I didn’t wash them after every use (translation: I wore dirty and stretched out stockings).

I was also rather vain about it all, so I wanted the stockings that were going to look the least like medical stockings. So, about half my stockings were 15-20 mmHg, aka NOT enough compression for someone with lymphedema. I picked these because they were every so slightly more shear and could (if you squinted) be passed of as pantyhose.

So really, Grace, what was the point?

Funny you ask that. I asked myself that question all the time.

And then my life changed in February of 2014. I know, I know, I’m getting all dramatic again. I started seeing a new therapist in DC. She introduced me to a bonafide (note: I said that wish a southern accent in my head, sounds better that way) garment fitter, who introduced me to the glorious world of the custom flat-knit stocking.

Key gospel singers.

Ok, ok, the flat-knit stockings aren’t PERFECT, but they’re a heck of a lot more effective than my circular-knit. When I wore my circular-knit, I thought it was normal that when I took them off I was left with a big crease in my swelling at my ankle. Note to self and everyone reading this: it is NOT normal. In fact, it means the stockings are not doing their job. They’re actually hurting your swelling/lymphatic flow. Think of it like a water hose — when you bend the water hose, you prevent water flow from one end to the other.

All this talk about flat-knit vs. circular-knit — I bet you’re wondering what the heck the difference is? Well, let’s start with a picture (I don’t know about you, but I’m a visual learner). The top is flat-knit is on the top and the circular-knit on the bottom.

Up until I starting seeing a new therapist last year I didn’t even know there was another kind of stocking — the flat-knit variety — and I certainly had no idea how life-changing custom stockings are.

What is the difference between circular-knit and flat-knit, you ask? Well, the short answer is that circular-knit is not made for lymphedema (rather they are designed for venous therapy), whereas flat-knit is. Or at least that’s how I understand it.

My own (vain) opinion of the difference? Circular-knit are way more comfortable and attractive than flat-knit.

Flat-knit are also much thicker (which is actually one of the reasons they are more effective) — it’s never easy to fit into dress shoes with lymphedema, but I had a much easier time with my circular-knit than I do with my flat-knit. There are a couple pairs of flats that I was able to wear with the circular-knit, but now are too tight with the flat-knit.

Despite how much I just complained about the flat-knit, I don’t plan on ever going back to the circular-knit. Once I get past my vanity and superficial complaints, I know that the flat-knit are infinitely more effective and worth my time and effort. Even worth all of the complaining 😉

Simple enough reason to wear flat-knit or circular-knit, right? Well, I know it’s a harder transition than that. Knowing what’s better for you and actually doing it are two entirely different things.

I also hope to never go back to off-the-shelf stockings, but I know how rare it is to have a health insurance plan that covers custom stockings. I no longer had the plan that I procured my 5 pairs of custom stockings on (cue gross sobbing), so for now I’m going to have to live out my current stockings for as long as they’ll last.

What kind do I have? The Mediven Mondi Leg in the (flat-knit) knee-highs (I have never worn thigh-highs). I believe that all of the major compression stocking brands now carry flat-knit stockings, so Medi is certainly not the only option.

I have four pairs of the color “sand” (aka the skin color for pasty people like myself) and one pair of the black. One pair is open-toed and the other four pairs are close-toed. Although I don’t like the open-toed as much, it’s still nice to have one pair if I want to wear sandals and look semi-“normal”. These particular stockings by Medi seem to be a lot better than the circular-knit open-toed stockings that I had, so they don’t “ride up” as much as the other, but I still find myself needing to pull them down periodically during the day. If I could only buy one or the other, I’d go with the close-toed. That said, I know people of people that like the open-toed. It’s personal preference!

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The open-toed DO have the benefit of being able to wear with flip-flops…

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I really wanted to get a pair in the “medi magenta” color to mix things up, but in the end chickened out and went with all practical colors. I kind of wish I had gotten at least one more pair of black ones.

As I mentioned all of the five pairs of garments I have are custom-sized — which means that a professional fitter measured my legs, sent the sizing to Medi and set up a follow-up appointment to make sure they fit right. I found it interesting that it’s not a requirement for lymphedema PTs to know how to measure for garments and that there are people whose entire job is to go around and measure patients for garments.

Anyhoo, I was super psyched when my first pair arrived and I discovered that my NAME was written on the tag:

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One of the best things about the custom stockings (I’m not sure if it’s simply because they’re custom or it’s the Medi brand — either way I never had this feature before on my circular-knit off-the-shelf stockings) is what they do with the ankle area. As you can see in the below photo they’ve actually added seams (or something like that) to hug the ankle area to more effectively use the compression to prevent the bent hose effect that usually happens to the swelling in that area.

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Also something I really like about these stockings (but I think is just the norm now with stockings) are the little dots at the top — they help to keep the stocking up/keep it from rolling down.

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They do leave less-than-desirable indentations in your skin when you take them off, but heck, whatcha gonna do.

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They also have this incredibly unattractive (and obvious) seam going up the back (this is, however, what allows them to be flat-knit instead of circular-knit). It took me a long time to get used to this — both in terms of how they look, but also in terms of how they feel (I could feel the seam on the bottom of my foot).

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Now that I have my fancy new(ish) 5 pairs of stockings, I wear stockings about 5-7x/week. Why not every day? It’s what works for me. I sit at a desk Monday – Friday, so those are the days that I need the compression garments the most. On Saturday/Sunday I’m a lot more active (i.e. not chained to a desk) and I find that being active helps my swelling a lot. So, some weekends I don’t wear them at all. It’s a nice break from reality and gives my skin a chance to breathe. PLEASE NOTE: I do not recommend doing that unless you have talked to your doctor/physical therapist. I’ve talked this through with my physical therapist and it’s what works for me. On days I don’t wear my stockings I use other tools in my toolbox. Again, it is all about you and your needs.

How I wash them:

Unfortunately, compression stockings need to be washed after every time you wear them. Yes, you heard me right! It sucks. #crybaby

My washing routine is the lazy routine. It’s probably better for the health of the garment to hand wash them, but I much prefer the washing machine method :) I’m not so good at squeezing the water out my stockings when I hand wash them, so it’s not always guaranteed that they will be dry by the morning.

  • Use a mild detergent (I use Woolite)
  • Wash in warm water
  • If using a washing machine, wash on a GENTLE/HANDWASH cycle
  • If hand washing, make sure to squeeze out as much water as possible (otherwise they take forever and a year to dry). I usually just squeeze the garment between my hands, but a reader suggested putting the garment in between a towel and patting dry. Even better!
  • ALWAYS ALWAYS air dry! Noooo dryer for these guys!
  • I usually wash them in the evening and need to wear them by the next morning — as long as you squeeze out as much water as possible (and you don’t live in a rain forest), they should be dry by the morning.

Some tips/lessons learned for garment wear:

  • Do not put lotion on your limb before you put on a garment. I mean, do you really want your lotion getting all over your very expensive stockings? I know there’s a more grounded reason than that not to do it, but all the same I just avoid it :)
  • Always wash in between wears!
  • Buy new stockings about every 6 months — this depends, though, on how often you wear them. Right now I have 5 pairs that I got March-May 2014 that I rotate, so I wear each pair 1-2/week. I’ve recently lost my really good insurance, so I will be wearing these for awhile longer (but I do recommend, if you can, to replace your stockings every 6 months if you wear them daily).
  • I have a favorite pair of Birkenstocks with black leather straps — be warned the deep color from leather straps like this come off on your stockings and ruin your wonderfully skin-colored stockings :( On the bright side, when you wear open-toed stockings with the Birkenstocks the straps cover the end and you can barely tell you’re wearing stockings!

How I put them on:

Actually putting on the garments was a bit of a learning curve for me, so I thought I’d share how I do it and hopefully help someone out.

The first step (and this is crucial) is to make sure you have good gloves. “Good” gloves = gloves that are “sticky” / the hands have a textured coating so that you can move the fabric of the stockings by just placing pressure on the fabric (not grabbing at it with your fingers). My first couple pairs were these fancy medical ones you had to get from the medical store, but since they do wear out and I had to keep buying more, I wanted to find some that were more easily accessible. Gardening gloves to the rescue! Below are my latest pair — just got them from Ace Hardware. Here are the same ones on Amazon. Note that when looking for coated gloves you need to make sure that the coating is textured and not slick — I once ordered a couple pairs of these super adorable kitchen gloves that I assumed would work as well. Turns out the coating was slick and they didn’t work at all. What a bummer! Back to the ugly gloves.

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Next step is to make sure your stocking is right side out (I’m lazy and wash my stockings inside out so this is always the first step for me):

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Next stick one arm all the way in the stocking:

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So that you can then turn the stocking inside out only HALF the way (roughly to the ankle):

Then put the half-inside out stocking on the correct foot. Make sure to align them correctly (this is one time when having that obnoxious seam makes it easier to know I’ve put them in the right place). It’s important to align the stocking correctly now because the farther you get in the process of putting the stocking on the harder it is to adjust the placement.

Next turn the second half of the stocking right side out by first pulling the top of the garment with your gloves as far as you can easily pull up the garment:

Once you are met with enough resistance from the stocking that you feel you are stretching the fabric STOP PULLING:

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This is where the handy dandy textured gloves come in — put your palms on the fabric and shimmy the fabric up your leg until you get to the right spot. The texture on the gloves will grip the fabric just enough to “pull” it up. This is much better for the fabric than using your fingers to pull at the fabric (and inevitably stretch it).

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Et voilà!

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How do I take them off? Well, there isn’t much technique to this (and sorry I don’t have a photo). I take the top of the garment with both hands and roll it down my leg (so it ends up inside out) until I get to the point where I have to pull it off with one hand. Please note: if you don’t have the best balance I’d suggest doing this sitting down. I usually can’t be bothered to sit down for this (I’m always so anxious to rip them off as soon as possible), which usually means I can’t put as much force into yanking them off (it can be quite hard) and sometimes means I lose my balance. Oh well!

Some additional compression stocking resources:

Some compression stocking brands to consider (this is not an exhaustive list):

Well, that’s all folks! Thanks for sticking with me until the bitter end :)

88 comments

    • GracefulLymphedema says:

      Thanks Meg! It’s been 10+ years since I’ve started my relationship with compression stockings, so I’d like to think I’ve been around the block and probably experienced every emotion/thought/reaction possible 😉

      • Renita Newman says:

        Oh man, I’m afraid I’ve done the same thing. It’s been 10 years since I first started to wear my stockings and recently, I don’t wear them as often as I once did. I need them, but I buy the ones that are the Size that are suppose to be according to my measurements, but that’s a joke. They are always too tight at my ankles and they cut me and I’m constantly having to pull them up.

        • GracefulLymphedema says:

          Renita — Oh no! Sounds like you’re not wearing the right size (they definitely shouldn’t cut you or be tight on the ankles). If you can, see a professional (a physical therapist or someone employed by a company) to measure you for the correct size.

  1. Sara says:

    This was a great blog! I am one of those people you were talking about who’s job it is to measure and fit patients and ensure they are in the correct garment. I have a daily struggle with my patients to explain that Flat Knit 20-30mmHg is better for them then any circular knit and that garmebts need to be eaahed daily and replaced every 4-6 months! Thank you for your detailed account of having/wearing/caring for Compression garments. I wish I could have all my patients read this! If I’m able to, I may just start passing it along to them :)

    • GracefulLymphedema says:

      Sara — Please do feel free to pass along to anyone! It’s certainly not a perfect account of compression stockings, but it’s an honest account of someone who has used them for over 10 years and learned a thing or two. Glad you thought it was helpful!

    • Donna B. says:

      Question…I wear compression stockings because I have varicose veins. I do have some swelling. Are flat knit stockings good for varicose veins? No one has ever suggested that to me! I do have problems with them cutting into my ankle after a few hours wear, and also the inner part of my knee. They also tend to want to slide down at the top…well, roll down is more like it. (pudgy area + a little swelling, and that’s what you get)

      • GracefulLymphedema says:

        Hi Donna — I am certainly no expert on this, so I would consult a professional! But based on what you’re saying…first it sounds like the stockings are not the right size (cutting into the ankles/sliding up an down are usually signs of this). I don’t know if flat knit stockings are good for vericose veins. I imagine it couldn’t hurt? But I’m not sure. It seems to me like flat knit stockings are a more sophisticated compression product than the circular knit. Whichever way you go, if you can do custom stockings they’re a life changer!

      • sberger202 says:

        Hi Donna, It is pretty rare that if a patient only has Varicose Veins, that they would then wear a flat knit fabric. The flat knit fabric helps provide a slight micro massage to move lymphatic fluid, but as far a I know, there is no reason you couldn’t wear a flat knit fabric with a low compression level. Always confirm with your doctor though.

        It sounds like you need a custom garment either way. If the garment is cutting into you, and its the right size, then you probably are swelling a bit and need a stronger fabric. If they are sliding down, it doesn’t sound like they are the right size. Do you have a silicone band to hold them up?

    • Susan says:

      I have, after 7 years of wearing circular knit, been fitted for custom made flat knits by my lymphodema physiotherapist at the hospital lymphodema clinic.

      . One would think that they would fit well but when they arrived, the toes were square, which horrified my doctor ( Who has square toes! she queried) and despite having had the toes overlocked at the side, the stockings are very slack with surplus fabric.
      It is obvious that the measurements were not done well but my doctor and I had had enough battle getting toed in stockings rather than the toeless ones, my physiotherapist at the lympodema clinic!
      The toeless ones she insisted the majority wore , just slid back up my foot from the pressure of the swelling. …………………I am so upset that this first pair of Jobst flat knit, which although thick and very hot to wear, does provide better compression, are ill fitting.
      The first pair are free but I will have to pay $500 for my next pair and $350 for the toe gloves under them. I feel I need a whole new measurement done .

      I wash them every day ,at the very least, every two days and take good care of them .
      I need to wear them for life , my shoes size has gone from an 8 to a 10 and without the hosiery on every day, I could not wear a shoe or walk.

    • GracefulLymphedema says:

      Gary — Glad to hear you’ve had success with them! They really are the best tool to treat lymphedema on a daily basis.

  2. Joyce Joyner says:

    Love you! I’ve had no help since I found out that I have limpodemia in both legs and I can’t fit in the stocking from hospital so I did find some heavy thick ones at walgreens that helped some but you have given me hope.Thank you for this fabulous video and great information. I’m so excited so now I’m goin to get my legs some help with great stocking! Thank you so very much you made my day!!!!!!!!

    • GracefulLymphedema says:

      Joyce — so glad I could help you. I’m certainly not an expert on compression stockings, but I figured I had a few tips and tricks I could share :)

  3. Compass says:

    Great reading from another struggler – have never tried gloves but now on my shopping list as I’m fed up of broken nails

  4. Heather says:

    I’ve been wearing compression garments religiously for about 3 yrs now. Was contemplating an open toe style for summer….so thank you for saving me from that mistake! Good thing I am still young enough to pull off Chuck Taylors with a dress :) Take care!

    • GracefulLymphedema says:

      Heather — Thanks for reading! I know others who like to wear the open-toe stockings, but for me they’ve just never worked. Most of my swelling is in my toes and top of my feet, so I need as much coverage as possible (I probably should even look into the toe caps, but I’m not there yet). Which actually could be an option for you — you could get the open toe stocking with a toe cap…just a thought!

      • Susan says:

        I have worn the toe cap glove but still found the open toe stocking slid back with them, as like you, GracefulLymphodema, the worst of my swelling is in my toes and tops of feet . Here in New Zealand they are very expensive, $375 ….therefore for both these and my flat knit hosiery, I have to pay $875!

        Th thing that annoys me is that although the first pair are free , I will have to pay this ideally every 6 months but realistically once a year to 18 months for my budget….there is no subsidy available for what is a life long disability.
        Do you get subsidised in America?

  5. Jayme Frowine says:

    Thanks for the info!! I have to wear these everyday because of my swelling is bad and it’s worse in the summer (humidity levels are up). I wish they would make them colorful and decorative. I prefer the open-toed in the summer and close-toed in the winter. Just like you said, flip flops is great to wear in the summer.

    • GracefulLymphedema says:

      Linda — thanks for pointing that out! I definitely chose the wrong verb here as I don’t actually wring them out (but squeeze out the water like you said). I updated the description to reflect that :)

    • GracefulLymphedema says:

      Kim — thanks for reading! And I will certainly hit you up if I’m ever in SC :) Which I’ve never actually been to!

  6. Danielle Materi Bell says:

    Great article! Kudo’s to you on wearing shorts or capri’s with your stockings! I haven’t gotten past the ugly factor yet, I’ve been wearing jeans since the day I put my stockings on. I have jobst custom stockings CCL 3 and have to wear them every single day pretty much. Very rarely do I go without them, and only if I can sit around with my feet up that day. Unfortunately at about $600+ per pair, i can only afford 1 pair at a time. I try to replace them every 5-6 months if I have the money. I too wish they made nice patterns/colors for leg stockings, I can only find them in the arm sleeves.

    • GracefulLymphedema says:

      Danielle — thanks for reading! It took my 10+ years to get to the stage where I was comfortable walking out the door with visible stockings. It just takes time :) And it sounds like you’re right on track with how often you buy stockings. Better than me!

      • Susan says:

        I do find my Jobst custom made stockings so ugly , both in the murky colour and the seam down the back of them.. Certainly not the way to complete a nice outfit. :(

  7. Ellie says:

    Thanks for this blog Grace, your story is so similar to mine. I also wear compressions just like these, can get tough in the Australian summer that’s for sure!
    Love and Light to all the lymphies, we are doing well!
    :)

  8. Susan Margaret says:

    I have been wearing over the counter round knit 30-40mmHg stockings thigh high stockings (Jobst) on my left leg for 20 years. Necessary as I had a radical dissection of my left groin lymph nodes for secondary malignant melanoma. I also had radiation in the same area which doesn’t help either. Although I have managed to keep the swelling soft – there is probably a small incremental increase year on year with this leg. I probably hold at least 1.5 litres of extra fluid in the left leg. My experience with an open-toe version of the same stocking – which I always try in the summer time to make me feel a bit more feminine wearing flip-flops and sandals – isn’t great. Anytime I used an opentoe version at the end of the day it would always cause a puffy outside of my ankle, where a closed toe would not. Very strange as in the closed toe version there is very little tension around the toe area & you wouldn’t imagine it would make much difference. Anyway about three months ago I started attending my MLD therapist again – determined to keep my swelling under control. She persuaded me to order two pairs of flat knit custom made stockings with a silk pocket stitched into behind the knee for comfort. Although they really do cause a little more bulk in my leg when wearing trousers & joggers in all honestly they are definitely better at keeping swelling down over the day. I also discovered gardening gloves were the best way to smooch the stocking up the leg without stretching the fabric too much.
    I have learned to live with my stockings – which I absolutely hate with a passion – but I try most of the time to park these feelings as they don’t get me anywhere with living with the everyday. I imagine & fear when I am older and more feeble how am I going to have the strength to pull up the stocking! Don’t go there. But if I don’t manage the lymphoma now & wear the best & most effective stocking now I will risk things like cellulitis & disfigurement from the fluid turning proteinous & turning solid.
    Thanks for saying it as it is – your thoughts bout the stockings are my thoughts too.

    • GracefulLymphedema says:

      Susan — Glad some of what I said resonated! And I totally get the fear of not being able to put on the stockings later in life, as I have that too. I’m hoping that there will be different treatment at that point…one can only hope!

      • Susan says:

        I cannot put my hosiery on, cannot bend after fractures in hand, shoulder, neck and a hip replacement. Nurse Maude carers come each morning and evening to apply and remove for me. Although appreciative of this, I so wish I could do it myself and gain back my independance.

  9. Debbie Greening says:

    I’ve had bilateral lymphedema for 45 years and have always had to wear Jobst custom made waist-high compression stockings because one of my legs is larger than the other. Because there was nothing else available when I was first diagnosed, I have always used the circular knit material. Over the years I have learned that Jobst has some tricks that help make wearing the stockings easier. They will install a mesh crotch in the pantihose which can be very helpful for some people. As Susan Margaret said, they will also put a lining behind the knees to help prevent irritation. For the bunching at the ankles, they will put in an ankle crease that removes some of the extra material and makes it easier to tolerate the stocking. I think there is a small additional cost for these modifications but my stocking is much more comfortable because of them. I do have one problem with my stockings and I don’t know what to do. Because my stockings are open toed, the stockings cause my little toes to swell up where the edge of the stocking digs in. I tried a closed toe stocking but it seemed like there was a lot of pressure on my toes. Anyone else have this problem?

    • Shawn underwood says:

      Wow. This is really interesting. I have a single custom made flat knit and I hated it so much that I only wore once. Going to try it again now though it’s an open toe :(
      Had surgery on my leg in Italy but it’s still not where it should be. Leg not surgery. Sad face.

  10. Sue says:

    I’ve just been prescribed compression stockings and was feeling quite down at having to wear old lady legs whilst still in my thirties. Your blog has cheered me up, and shown me that actually these stockings are not such a big deal, and they will do me more good than I will feel embarrassment.

    • GracefulLymphedema says:

      Sue — I’m so glad this has helped! Go easy on yourself…it took my a long time to gather enough gumption to wear them exposed, never mind not care what other people think. It’s still a work in progress :)

  11. Mel says:

    Grace, thanks for your article. I was recently diagnosed, was feeling bummed out but your article has helped. I’m also DMV area, do you mind sharing your therapist information? Are they LANA certified?

  12. Pip pips says:

    You should get measured for toe caps too.i have swelling mostly in my foot and ankle (nothing above) .mine are flat knit from medi too.they are amazing and stop the rough skin build up by the base of your toes where they meet the foot.

  13. Lisa says:

    Thank you so much for all the great info! I was just diagnosed today with Lymphedema due to a severe car accident in which I almost lost my left leg. I will be seeing a Lymphedema specialist to be fitted for a stocking soon and your story complete with photos was terrific and very helpful. Sincerely, Lisa

    • GracefulLymphedema says:

      Lisa, So glad I could help! Sorry to hear about your accident, but it sounds like you’re doing all the right things. Happy to hear you were able to find a lymphedema specialist in your area as well!

  14. Sheila says:

    Thanks for this informative post. I’m looking for a new pair of stockings because the last non-custom pair contributed to my skin thickening. I also live in the DC area and would appreciate a recommendation for the fitter you visited. Thanks!

    • GracefulLymphedema says:

      Hi Sheila — I’ve actually since moved to NYC, but when I was in DC I worked with a physical therapist at Sibley Hospital and she used a fitter named Jennifer (sorry don’t know her last name). I’m told she’s pretty much the only professional fitter in the DC area.

  15. Liz says:

    Hello! I really enjoyed reading your blog on compression. I have had lymphedema in my leg 23 years. I made it through the first 27 years of my life oblivious to the notion of Lymphedema and then I had an injury and it came on. And then grew up my leg (it started in my ankle and is now up the thigh into the abdomen and hip/buttocks. I of course, have a love/hate relationship with my stockings too. And am always searching and experimenting for better. Like you, I started out with the flat knits and then discovered Juzo and the circular knit which looked so much nicer and made me feel alot more normal. But they don’t hold the edema in check. And I would re-wear like 3 days in a row. And replace them ever year or two! I have been getting by with a 15 knee high, Varin soft, and then a silicone lace 20-30 on my thigh. Not only is this not enough compression and the wrong kind, it made my thigh alot worse above my knee- probably due to the compression of the top layer ending at my knee. So I am on the hunt for a good pair. I am planning on going custom, even though I have tried it once before and was unhappy with the fit, and returned it. This time I think I am going to go with a custom Gottfried, and off the shelf Medi. If I can get away with it. Not sure what to do at the top of the garment, as the silicone dots I am afraid will start to roll down at the top of my thigh under my butt. At least, that is what has happened in the past. I have also tried the panty version, but it’s just uncomfortable and it goes part way down my unaffected leg which is really unsightly and that’s not going to do.

    If you have any suggestions I’m all ears!

  16. Olga S says:

    I have to say this: your post changed my life! I also used to wear circular knit stockings and my feet were swollen and painful every evening. After reading your post I insisted on getting flat knit ones (even though the lady at the store kept warning me they would be too uncomfortable -.- and my prescription didn’t specify which ones I need) and they are amazing! My feet feel so much better all day. I can’t believe no doctor ever mentioned this to me. You are awesome!

  17. HOX says:

    I have primary lymphoedema, and I am now 70.

    All my life I have been under the impression that I had ‘fat’ legs, because that was the general concensus of opinion! I kind of learned to live with this diagnosis from the amateurs that readily applied the fat epithet, probably because my legs were just bigger, and more shapeless than most, not particuarly bothersome…but they were, self preservation booted up and I just learned to accommodate my fate.

    Last year, things started to change, the pudgy areas became like jello, and my jeans/trousers became tighter, in retrospect, the change probably started about 3 years previously, with an accidental brush with a bed end, resulted in a swelling that took 3 months to diaappear, and there have been other similar episodes.

    Action time, and 3 weeks of bandages, and compression tights to follow as the main course. The choice was rather fluid from the therapist, so I chose open toed tights, Mediven. I don’t relish the idea of wearing them, but they make my legs feel much more comfortable, so I do, as the alternative, and accompanying consequence really isn’t an interesting prospect. But there is this lousy problem every day of getting them on, I use latex gloves, the thin type from the supermarket, they work really well, and that eliminates the temptation to rip them apart in the process.

    Anywhoo, thx for the blog, good to share experiences!

  18. Elizabeth says:

    Hello Grace, Thank you for a very practical and well-illustrated account. I found the pictures with sandals really helpful & will definitely try to get some closed-toes ones as it’s getting me down that I can’t wear summer shoes in the hot weather because the line half-way up my foot just looks very silly. Also, I wonder what people do about cropped trousers if it’s only the one leg affected (I’ve had lymphedema in 1 leg since lots of varicose veins were removed from it by injection, and by lots I mean that I held the record for the most varicose veins in 1 leg treated at the hospital!), the other leg had surgery when I was very young & had always been more swollen, but got dramatically overtaken by the other when I developed lymphedema! Since I only wear a stocking on the 1 leg I’ve been avoiding cropped trousers (one beige leg and one very pale blotchy leg does stand out) but would love to be able to wear them again – I wonder how other people get one with this? Thank you again!

    • Pam says:

      I have Lymphedema in one leg abs I wear cropped pants and one leg has “old lady stocking” and the other doesn’t and so what?!

      This article was very good.

  19. Barbara Roe says:

    Thank you. You have written a concise piece on compression hose. I have recently been diagnosed with secondary lymphedema in both legs. My insurance did not cover the hose which were hand made in Germany. On three seperate occasions I have purchased over the counter hose and I can’t get them on. I bought a pair of gloves from the hardware store but they did not work so now I will order from good-old Amazon. Thank you again I have learned so much from your article which I found on Pinterest. Now where can I get some wide leg pants? I looked at one site and the shipping was almost as much as the pants.

    • Pam says:

      I have secondary LE in one leg. But I need wide leg pants mainly because otherwise the thigh part of the LE leg clings too much. I have just bought two pairs of pants from JJill. They have pants that are loose all the way down the leg but still look fashionable. I’m thrilled.
      Also regarding gloves you can also get gloves from sites that sell medi stockings. Medi makes the best glove in my opinion. If I didn’t have gloves I could never get my stockings on.
      And I have found with the over the counter brands that the soft opaque Sigvaris are the easiest to get on. But I wear thigh highs and if you wear knee highs just having gloves might be good enough to get those on.

  20. Susan says:

    Have just discovered your blog and am very appreciative of it.
    I am like you Grace, my odema begins a the base of my toes, my feet, ankles and the worst in this whole area, but continues up to my knee,to a lesser degree, although I do get intermittent swelling in my right knee also.

    I got severe mosquito bites in Rarotonga 8 years ago, got cellulitis, looked like a burns victim from toes to my groin, where it attacked the lymphatic glands in my groins, leaving me with severe and permanent lymphodema. What was the cause of yours, Grace?
    I began with Sigvaris, then Juzo, Venosan circular knits ( these in knee highs and thighs …but the thigh ones, despite having a silicone band, slip down) and have recently had Jobst flat knit ones which would have been great but the top band was twice the width of all the other brand hosiery I’ve had and a much harsher silicone band which caused the most dreadful blistering below my knees where it had cut into my skin.

    I have recently been given compression toe gloves which does aid the swelling but for them not having been custom measured and the left one cut differently in length than the right, causing a most uncomfortable fit between the little toe aand also not covering the big toe, as the right one does. Sighhhhhhhh…….

    I am unable to put on or remove my hosiery as have no strength in right arm since having fractured hand, elbow, shoulder and collar bone plus recently had a total hip replacement.
    I so hate having to be like this, will be ’til I keel over. I aso had a pulmonary embolism ( clot on the lung) 2 years ago and on warfarin for life , so am aware of how important good fitting hosiery is for the risks I’m under of DVTs also. If I didn’t have my hosiery on, I can’t get a shoe on or even walk properly …my feet, ankles are like concrete. I’ve gone up 3 sizes in foot wear!
    In New Zealand, where I live, even through the Lymphodema Clinic at the hospital, the flat knit, custom made hosiery cost $500 and there is no subsidy, even though this is a life time, potentially life threatening condition. It’s impossible at that price to replace every 6 months. I’m very careful with the & care of them.

    • GracefulLymphedema says:

      Susan — THANK YOU for finding this blog and for sharing your story. I relate to so much about what you mentioned. Please do keep following on here and sharing your story!

  21. Sandy says:

    This has been a very interesting and informative blog and my therapist had suggested that I should try the Custom stockings. This would probably be nice but the price puts them out of the question. I do wear the Juzo circular knit and they do cut in around my ankle and bunch up behind my knee. I so prefer the open toe even though they do make your toes swell. It is good to know that if you can afford it the custom are so much better. However I am concerned that the seam up the back would be a problem. I never wear anything that does not cover my legs at least to crop pant length. For years it was only in my right leg then went to the left also. I would really like to see a professional fitter as maybe even by having to use the circular knit I could achieve a better fit. If anyone knows of one in the NH area or in central Fla or ever further out in both states I would be interested in consulting with them. Thanks for posting.

      • Sandra Page says:

        No I have not. I will look in to that Thank you. Also If anyone knows a professional fitter in NH orFl I would be very interested in hearig about it.
        I

        • GracefulLymphedema says:

          Oh! You might be right. I just assumed that Juzo would make an off the shelf flat knit stocking, but admittedly I’ve never gotten them. Sorry if I misled you! I tried looking at the Juzo website to see if they did off the shelf flat knit but it’s not clear :/

  22. Corinne Duis says:

    This was a really interesting article to read as someone just coming into wearing compression stockings. I have some “off the shelf” hosiery which cost me a bomb, and they were made for men so are too long. The hospital said “they will be fine, just pull the extra over the toes and tuck it underneath”. Invariably it rides back up and sits in a nice tight bunch over my ankle and hurts like hell and for an added bonus the tops gouge into the top of my calf. Invariably, this means they’re exceptionally unpleasant to wear (so I wear them to special occasions only) and tend to wear Tubigrip all the time instead as its more manageable for me, and I can adjust the lengths easily.

    After a recent issue with Cellulitis and an allergy to the treatment gauze which has left my legs looking severely burned, I now wear 2 full lengths of different sized tubigrip, and one shorter length between the layers for “spot” compression.

    However, one thing I want to note. I wear a 3/4 length pant so the stockings are completely visible, and I completely don’t care. They keep my legs nice and warm in winter and haven’t proven to be too bad in summer.
    Tubigrip is certainly less discreet than the hosiery. Many of the comments note how ugly hosery is.
    I’ve had swollen, fat legs for some years, and I have to say that the reduction of swelling in my legs has been incredible since wearing tubigrip. I pull my stockings on I actually feel sexy and confident while wearing them. They have helped change how I feel about myself, and have improved my confidence. I don’t feel out of place or like some particular attention is drawn to my legs because I carry on like there is nothing out of the ordinary.
    I feel like I can stand straighter and walk taller while wearing both hosiery and tubigrip, because the alternative is sore, severely swollen legs (we’re talking around 5cm additional circumference without the compression). Ugly cankles and barrel like feet that can’t fit into shoes, and indeed for more than a year I couldn’t get a single pair of shoes to fit. I always felt depressed about my ugly fat legs that couldn’t fit into anything.

    With compression, my feet are flat and more normal looking for the first time in many years. I like how they feel while I walk, and have found myself walking more and have even lost weight.

    I enjoyed reading your article, and the comments from others who have done the same. I felt it necessary to mention that in spite of the discomfort that comes with wearing the stockings, not wearing them is much worse and that depending on your perspective, they could be empowering in a wholly unexpected way.

    • Tammy Harper says:

      I’ve had lymphedema for over 25 years and never really received any advice on how to manage it until recently. A doctor suggested I go to the local Lymphedema Clinic in our area…I couldn’t be happier with the results so far. I wore compression garments for a while at the beginning, but wasn’t fitted properly and found it to be too painful and uncomfortable to continue. So, I stopped wearing anything. Well, I’m older now and have many more aches and pains….and, to tell you the truth, once I turned 50 I realized I needed to do something fast or my quality of life was going to diminish very quickly. I’ve only been wrapping for two weeks but the difference is amazing! I haven’t confirmed it yet, but my legs look like they’re at least 2″ smaller than they were. Looking forward to getting fitted with the proper size compression socks. Just wondered if anyone else has had experience with switching from wrapping to compression socks and how it went?? I’m worried that my legs will not be managed without wrapping….and I really don’t want to have to always wrap. It’s quite uncomfortable….

  23. Alma cain says:

    Hi I have only been wearing these compression knee highs for 3weeks now and I am 77 and cannot get down very well to put these socks on . The lady gave me this applicator to help put socks on it’s great my husband helps me as I don’t think I could get them on with just gloves . It’s called magnide made by Arion simply smile . They cost about £25 but well worth it .www.arion-group.com. Well worth having a look at

  24. Suzanne says:

    GREAT article! Thanks so much for taking the time. I’ve been living with lymphedema in one leg for abut 11 years now (thank you, surgery). For all but a couple of months of that time I’ve worn circular knit 30-40s (didn’t know any different). I just decided to go through PT for the first time in about 6 years, and they talked me into getting a custom flat knit. OK, so there’s the whole vanity thing (could they BE uglier?), but also I notice that my leg seems to start swelling after about 6 hours. Sooooo uncomfortable. They’re Medi, and I worked with a professional fitter who tells me she can make them in a different material that involves latex, but I really don’t want to go there (hello itch factor). She explained that when we swell, circular knit gives WITH us, so we don’t feel it as much, and the flat knit keeps trying to hold us in, so we do feel it. I’m really struggling with feeling so dang uncomfortable for most of the day. Like, I put them on at about 7 AM and get home from work around 5:00, then not to bed until 10PM. They start feeling uncomfortable by about 1:00, so ‘m talking MOST of the day here.

    I wash them every night and don’t use any lotion. They have the “darts” in them like yours do. Last week I finally gave in and started wearing the old circular knit one again. I really don’t want to do the wrong thing, but the discomfort is just not sustainable. I don’t know what to do from here. The fitter is busy and tired of my questions, and the PT tells me I have to wear the flat knit for lymphedema.

    Just venting. I don’t expect you to have answers. 😉 I swear, lymphedema is such a drag!

    Oh well, onward and upward.

    -Suzanne

    • GracefulLymphedema says:

      You mean a pump? I have one but honestly I haven’t used it enough to know if it’s even helpful! I don’t use it because this particular model is a pain to use. I’m getting a new one soon that’s so much easier to use and I have high hopes I’ll use it regularly!

  25. Luanne says:

    Compression stockings are new to me… so I’m still working through the vanity parts. Thanks for this post – it’s nice to know I’m not alone in the mind parts, even if we’re using them for different reasons. Oh, and also, the pictures. Your flats and capris look cute as a button! I’m less worried about summer now!

    • GracefulLymphedema says:

      Oh I don’t know if the vanity part of the equation ever goes away! It’s certainly a constant struggle for me, but it’s certainly gotten better!

  26. Travis says:

    I may not have lymphedema, but I do know all about wearing compression stockings. A while back I was diagnosed with a massive DVT in my right leg during an extended stay in hospital, and had to get used to wearing those stockings from ankle to hip. Along with the pain that went along with the early stages of the DVT, and a typically hot & humid Canadian summer, that stocking was a pain in the ass. So, I am very happy to see you being able to wear your flip flops with capris ! Very nice ! Good for you ! Huzzah !

  27. Steph says:

    Hi, I had bowel cancer 6 years ago and had 19 lymph nodes removed on my left side. I’ve put up with swollen ankles, feet and toes for a few years. In the last year my left leg is now swelling and has become so so heavy. I have been to the lymphedema clinic to be told i need stockings. As a young 50 year old this has sent me into a head spin. I don’t know if I can go out wearing them. Am worried I am going to isolate myself and become a hermit in my own home. All of you ladies are so brave.

    • GracefulLymphedema says:

      Don’t be too hard on yourself! It took me years to even wear them exposed. Baby steps. Start by wearing them under pants. I eventually got to the point where I knew how much better I felt wearing them, which helped me muster the courage to wear them exposed. I believe in you!

  28. Liz Roughton says:

    Does anyone have experience of wearing on one leg but not the other in summer? I’ve covered up but would love to not have to, also to wear dresses again. I currently have phlebitis in the non-lymphedema leg, which in the longer term needs a support stocking for my ‘poor old veins’, but I’m worried about having a different type of stocking on each leg?

    • Suzanne says:

      I have Lymphedema in one leg, and I’ve been wearing a stocking on it for about 10 years. I have the vanity issue (how I wish my leg was cute again!), but sometimes I’ll wear it “out” in capris. The issue I have with capris is that they’re generally just a tad snug on that leg, so I’m forever leaning over to tug them down when I stand up from sitting. Sigh. Mostly I wear maxi skirts. They’re cool and cute (and in style again!), and I wear sandals even though I’ve been told that’s not the best idea (gotta take care of that foot/leg). All that to say, go for it. Once in a while someone asks me “what did you do to your leg?”, and I tell them I have Lymphedema from a cancer surgery years ago (although, frankly, I sometimes want to yell “I didn’t DO anything to it”, but what’s the use of that?). That’s usually the end of it. If the person wants to know more, I’ve gotten used to offering a bit more detail. So, yes, it’s a total drag, and I’m still self-conscious, and sometimes I feel sorry for myself over it, but maxi skirts are cute, cool, and offer coverage. A decent compromise. Go for it, girl! Join the club. :)

      • Liz says:

        Thank you Suzanne – I love maxi skirts! I used to live in them as a teenager to cover up varicose vein surgery scars. According to the photos, I had cute legs as a small child. Just got to lose weight again then as maxi skirts/dresses look a lot better when one is at least a little bit slim; would love to stop living in trousers all the time & pretty skirts would be a really good incentive. No-one told me not to wear sandals so I’ll keep the denial up a bit longer on that one – one has to be comfortable after all!

      • Liz says:

        It’s so hot here that I’ve been wearing capris out & about, at last. No-one has said a word and I actually feel more comfortable about my stocking leg than the other one as the stocking hides all the blemishes & blotches!

  29. Pam says:

    I wear compression 30-40 only on one leg. Because I have a very swollen ankle (plus knee but that’s not the point) it appears that when I wear it with a capri it pretty much looks like I have a beige ankle brace on a swollen ankle. Now why do I tell myself this? Just to make myself feel a bit more “normal”. :)

  30. Luanne Christensen says:

    So yesterday, I went out to a nice little event with white capris, compression stockings, and black flats. No apology, no explanation. I didn’t expect anyone to ask what was up with the footwear. But I was prepared. My answer was going to be: “Meh, it’s the new me. I feel better when I’m wearing them.”

    I felt cute. Because Grace looked cute. :)

    I’m looking forward to finding a pair of palazzo pants that suite my shape. They’ll look great, too, I’m sure!

    • Pam says:

      BRAVO! I’m doing it too! But I can’t wear black flats because my right foot is one size bigger than the other one and I can’t find any comfy ones, but I am wearing flip flops!! With open toe compression stocking. Beige. woo hoo.

      • Liz says:

        Pam and Luanne that’s great to hear! Pam I’m with you on the shoes. I’ve always had a size difference between my feet, and now the lymphodema’s only in the larger foot & has made it wider, so finding a pair of shoes where the non-lymphedema one isn’t falling off with every step is a challenge.

        • Pam says:

          This has been a huge problem for me. I donated at least 20 pairs of shoes. If you have a Nordstrom near you they will let you buy two different size shoes! I recently found a comfortable shoe by Uggs. It’s s slip on canvas shoe. But my LE foot was one size larger. They let me buy the mismatch because I have a disease that caused it. Normally they will only do it if it’s a size and a half difference. This was the first time I have done it. I will do it again if I can.

  31. Suzanne says:

    Here are some maxis I have. I wear a petite (short little thing), so they’re not all that easy to find, and I’m loathe to spend $$ to have them hemmed…

    http://www.dressbarn.com/petite-floral-chiffon-maxi-skirt/prd-103024001 (the blue is darker and prettier than the picture)
    http://www.dressbarn.com/westport-1962-belted-paisley-maxi-skirt/prd-103033216#color/938;

    Also I found a great wide-leg pant that’s the right length: http://www.dressbarn.com/westport-petite-denim-print-palazzo-pants/prd-103048506#color/911

    This site has really nice maxi skirts. A bit pricey, but look at the sales! https://www.softsurroundings.com/P/Spring_Fever_Skirt/
    https://www.softsurroundings.com/P/Arielle_Skirt/

    Check them all out at https://www.softsurroundings.com/Clothing/Skirts/

    And on sale right now https://www.softsurroundings.com/Sale/Clothing/Skirts/

    Also, they have some cute wide-leg pants (I’m still trying to find some short enough, but anyway…) https://www.softsurroundings.com/P/Drapey_Gauze_Pants/

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