Frequently Asked Questions About Compression, Compression Stockings, and Armsleeves
We're always glad to answer any questions you may have. If you need a quick answer, please use our Live Chat service, available from 9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. Monday to Friday by clicking the "Chat Now" button to the left. Here are answers to the questions we're asked most often. Don't see your question? You can ask us anything using the form in the middle of this page. Just scroll down.
HOW TO PUT ON AND CARE FOR YOUR STOCKINGS
COMPRESSION THERAPY EXPLAINED
STOCKING BRANDS AND OPTIONS
LYMPHEDEMA ARMSLEEVES, GLOVES, AND GAUNTLETS
Q.Should you buy knee highs, thigh highs, or pantyhose?
If you have aching feet or swelling in the lower legs or ankles below the knee, knee-high stockings will typically provide all the compression you need. This length stocking is also the easiest style to fit.
If you need compressive support throughout the entire length of the leg, thigh-high stockings, pantyhose, or a leotard are appropriate. For compression to be effective, it must cover the area of the limb where the problem exists.
Q.What compression level should you wear?
If you have been told to wear a compression garment by your doctor or therapist, he or she 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.
Our Compression Guide guide gives a broad overview of the different levels of compression, and how they are used to treat certain conditions, but it should not be a substitute for medical advice.
Q. Are compression stockings sold in pairs?
Yes, almost all compression stockings are sold in pairs. The few that are not, are clearly marked as such. Compression armsleeves are sold individually, as are most compression wraps with velcro.
Q. How do you find the right size?
Great question … some stockings are sized by shoe size or height and weight, but most are sized by leg measurements. If you swell, best to measure first thing in the morning. Measure the circumference of your ankle at the narrowest point, your calf at the widest point, and the distance from the floor to the bend of your knee for knee highs. For thigh highs and pantyhose, you'll also need to measure around your upper thigh and the length of your leg from the floor to crease of buttocks.
Compare your measurements to the size chart for the stockings you want to purchase, or use our Size Machine. Just plug in your measurements, and you'll get a list of products that fit. Every brand is sized differently.
Q. What's the best compression to wear for travel?
Assuming you don't have any venous issues, a moderate compression of 15-20mmHg is recommended for travel.
Q. Does insurance cover compression garments?
Some insurance plans cover compression hosiery, many do not. It depends on the plan. If you have health insurance, give them a call to see if they will reimburse for compression garments. Because of the administrative costs, we regret that we are unable to process insurance claims for you. We can, however, provide you with a detailed invoice that can be submitted for reimbursement.
Q. Does Medicare pay for compression stockings?
It almost all cases, Medicare will only pay for compression stockings if you have an active venous stasis ulcer on your leg.
Q. How do I put on my compression stockings?
Watch our donning video, which demonstrates several different ways to don, or put on, your compression stockings.
Q. Is there anything to help me put my stockings on?
There are many accessories available to assist with the donning of compression stockings.
Donning gloves are one of the most useful and inexpensive donning accessories. Gloves not only protect the stocking from snags and runs, they allow you to get a good grip on the fabric. It's very easy to smooth out wrinkles and adjust the length by using the palms of the gloves. We sell 2 rubber donning gloves, Sigvaris and Mediven, and a cotton glove that has been dipped in rubber from Jobst.
Another very useful donning accessory is silicone lotion. The lotion makes your legs very slippery for a short period of time, so the stockings can easily slide onto your foot and up your leg. Silicone lotions are hypoallergenic and won't harm the fabric of your compression stockings. Alps Fitting Lotion is available in a 4oz squeeze bottle, and Compression Assist is available in a 2oz spray bottle.
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 stockings. There is an Easy-Slide for open toe stockings and the Easy-Slide Caran for closed toe stockings.
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. BrightLife Direct sells 4 different stocking donners and there is an instructional video on each product page.
Q. How do I stop my stockings 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 it’s 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. Measure around the widest part of your calf and check the size chart on the package.
If neither of these reasons are the cause, try a knee high with a silicone top-band.
Q. 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, many of the thigh highs we carry can be special ordered without a silicone band, and you will use either a garter belt or skin glue (It Stays) to keep the stockings in place. We stock Jobst Relief thigh highs without a silicone band.
Q. How do I care for my compression garment?
Every product we sell has detailed laundry instructions included in the packaging. On our website, you'll find laundry instructions for each product under the MORE INFO tab. Some brands can be machine washed and dried, some just machine washed, some require hand washing and air drying.
As with any item made of fabric, it will last longer if it's hand washed and air dried, but this can be difficult. If you machine wash your stockings, use a mild detergent and warm or cold water, never hot. If your stockings are sheer, use a lingerie bag to prevent snags. If you machine dry, use a low heat setting. Silicone top-bands will loose their softness more quickly if machine dried. And finally, wash them daily. 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.
Q. What are compression stockings?
Compression stockings apply pressure to the circumference of the leg which affects the leg's surface veins in a graduated, controlled manner. This temporarily reduces the size of the surface veins and forces blood into the deep vein system within the legs. Clinical studies have shown that applying graduated compression to the legs increases blood flow to the deep veins. The result is better blood circulation which usually brings relief from painful symptoms caused by poor blood flow.
Q. How can compression stockings help me?
Because the legs are farthest from the heart, and blood flowing back to the heart must work against gravity, blood circulation to the legs is often affected by medical conditions, increasing age, weight, or occupational stresses. Any of these can cause serious problems with blood circulation. Impaired blood circulation may cause symptoms ranging from fatigue, aching, and swelling in your hands, legs, and feet to more serious conditions such as deep vein thrombosis (DVT). These conditions can usually be reduced by wearing the appropriate type of "graduated compression" hosiery. Doctors call this approach compression therapy.
Q. What does "graduated compression" mean?
Graduated means that the level of compressive pressure applied to the circumference of the leg gradually decreases as you move from the lower to the upper part of the garment. The result is that more pressure is applied to the veins in the lower leg than in the upper leg which pushes fluids up. The amount of pressure in compression hosiery is indicated using the measurement term "mmHg" or millimeters of mercury which is how the compression is measured. Some examples are 15-20mmHg, 20-30mmHg, and 30-40mmHg.
Q. How do I know if I need to wear compression stockings?
Doctors recommend compression hosiery for treatment or to provide relief for many conditions affecting the veins. Your doctor or medical professional is your best source to find out if it might help you. Compression hosiery is a medical product and you should check with your doctor before wearing it to ask what level of compression best suits your medical condition. To get the best results from compression therapy, you need to wear the right level of compression and wear a garment that fits you properly.
Q. What medical conditions can be helped by compression therapy?
The symptoms of varicose veins, spider veins, venous insufficiency, phlebitis, chronic ankle and leg swelling, and deep vein thrombosis can all be helped with graduated compression therapy. Because the correct compression level is highly important to getting the best result, you should consult with your doctor or medical professional for advice regarding the appropriate compression level for your condition. Verify this with your doctor from time to time, particularly if your health changes.
Q. Who should NOT wear compression stockings?
Absolute contraindications, or medical conditions in which compression is never recommended, include ischemia (e.g. advanced arterial disease), uncontrolled congestive heart failure, untreated septic phlebitis, and phlegmasia coerulea dolens.
Relative contraindications, or medical reasons in which compression is sometimes not recommended, include concomitant dermatoses, intolerance to compression stocking fabric, sensory disturbance of the limb, advanced peripheral neuropathy, and primary chronic arthritis..
Q. What are diabetic socks?
Diabetic socks are stockings woven with either no compression or a low level of compression that is non-constricting. They have an antimicrobial finish to inhibit the growth of bacteria and fungus, include moisture wicking fibers to keep the feet dry, and have no seams or have flat smooth seams that won't create friction points or irritate your skin.
Q. Can young people and athletes benefit from compression therapy?
Yes. Most adults can benefit from compression hosiery regardless of age. Usually, healthier and younger people wear lighter levels of compression.
Anyone who spends a great deal of time sitting behind a desk or standing up for extended periods may experience constriction of blood vessels and blood pooling in their legs and feet. They will find that graduated compression hosiery can help reduce the swelling, fatigue, and leg aches as their circulation gets a boost from the hosiery. The heavier levels of compression should only be worn under a doctor's supervision.
Athletes, particularly runners, find that knee-high compression hosiery improves performance and reduces recovery time as less fatigue is felt after a work-out. Frequent travelers can wear travel socks to help prevent deep vein thrombosis (DVT). Many pregnant women develop venous problems, such as varicose veins and spider veins, and maternity pantyhose can help prevent or minimize these problems.
Q. What is "economy class syndrome"?
Deep vein thrombosis (DVT), also known popularly as economy class syndrome, is a very serious condition in which dangerous blood clots can form in the legs during flights due to cabin pressure and cramped seating positions. Studies show that graduated compression hosiery, sometimes called travel or airplane socks can help prevent or minimize the formation of these blood clots.
No matter how healthy you are, when you are passively seated in a plane, a car, or even at a desk, for long periods of inactivity during which the leg muscles are not moved can lead to blood pooling in the legs. This causes swelling and discomfort and may even lead to the formation of blood clots in veins deep inside the legs. When activity resumes, a blood clot can move to the lungs and cause a pulmonary embolism. Anyone who spends long periods of time in passive sitting can be at risk. You can reduce the risk by wearing compression stockings. Compression therapy will help your legs feel energized and reduce swelling in the legs and feet. It's one of the simplest things you can do to prevent DVT.
Q. How do I decide which brand to buy?
All brands offer the three basic styles (knee-highs, thigh-highs, and pantyhose) in the standard compression levels (15-20mmHg, 20-30mmHg, and 30-40mmHg). The differences between brands are often in the type of fabrics offered (sheer, opaque, etc.) and options available (open toe, petite length, silicone band, etc.). Every brand fits a little differently as well. First time customers will often try several brands to see which one fits them the best.
Q. Do you sell compression stockings with a zipper?
We do sell compression stockings with a zipper, but don't get excited. To put on a stocking that has real graduated compression and a zipper takes 3 hands, two to hold the fabric together, and one to pull up the zipper. Compression stockings with a zipper are designed to protect wound dressings, and for use by caregivers. If you have trouble putting on your stockings, we have many donning aids that work much better, and compression wraps with velcro closures.
Q. What is a balloon toe?
A balloon toe is a voluminous toe box. The opposite of a fitted toe. The extra fabric in the toe box gives your toes extra wiggle room. Many Allegro brand stockings have a balloon toe.
Q. Why are some brands of stockings to much more expensive than others?
Because compression hosiery is a medical product that must meet strict standards of performance, the materials used, the fabric finish, and the techniques employed in weaving the hosiery contribute to the cost. Premium brands made by large companies with established reputations are more expensive than private-label brands which have lower marketing and packaging costs. Other factors that affect compression hosiery costs are fabric quality, level of compression, and ease of care for the products. Smoother, softer fabrics and higher levels of compression have higher production costs. The premium brands allow machine washing and in some products machine drying. The lower-cost hosiery usually requires hand washing and air drying.
Q. Compression stockings, support socks, support hose...what's the difference?
They all mean the same thing. There's no difference between a compression stocking and a support stocking, except for the wording.
Q. Will I get the same compression from a sheer stocking, as I will from a thicker opaque stocking?
Yes. Both fabrics provide the same level of compression, the force pushing in on your legs. If you have mild swelling and/or venous insufficiency, most fabrics should work well for you. If you suffer from more severe edema (swelling), you may need a thicker fabric that offers better containment. If your stockings are creasing into your skin, that's an indication that you need higher containment. Examples of stockings that provide high containment are Juzo Dynamic, Sigvaris 500 Rubber, and Mediven Forte. In general, stockings made from thicker opaque fabrics are more durable than those made from the thinner sheer fabrics.
Q. How long should compression stockings last?
If properly care for, compression stockings should last between four and six months. Stockings made from sheer fabrics can develop snags and runs like regular sheer stockings, and can have a shorter life span. Keep the following factors in mind when estimating how long your hosiery should last:
Q. What is the difference between an open-toe and closed-toe stocking?
An open-toe stocking is one that is woven so that the toe area and the area about one or two inches behind the toe are not covered by the stocking – i.e., the toes and part of the foot remain bare. There is no therapeutic difference between the two styles. Occasionally your doctor may prescribe one style over the other, but usually it is just personal preference.
Q. Do compression stockings all have that "clinical look," or are there more stylish options?
Compression hosiery has come a long way since the days when support stockings all looked clinical. You can now select fashionable sheer or very sheer hose in an array of attractive colors while still benefiting from compression levels ranging from the lower end (8-15mmHg) to the higher levels of compression (30-40mmHg). Men's socks are now woven using techniques that make them indistinguishable from regular ribbed dress socks. Women's trouser socks look like regular socks as well. Because of the advanced weaving technology now employed, most non-surgical types of compression hose do not have a clinical appearance.
Q. What is the difference between white anti-embolism stockings (TED's) that I got in the hospital, and compression stockings?
Anti-embolism stockings, also called TED stockings, are used in hospitals for non-mobile patients. Doctors prescribe them for those patients who are still in recovery rooms or who are undergoing post-surgical treatment while still confined to a bed. TED stockings, in appearance, are made from white fabric and have an inspection opening just above the toes. TED compression is not graduated, but is at the same level (18mmHg) throughout the length of the garment.
Graduated compression hosiery is different because the hose are designed specifically for people who are capable of moving around – i.e., they are mobile. The hosiery provides more compressive pressure at the lower end of the garment and gradually decreases towards the upper end of the garment to help move fluids toward the torso. A moderate level of compression is 15-20mmHg. A high level of compression is 30-40mmHg.
Q. Are armsleeves available without a silicone top-band?
Armsleeves are available without silicone. The Juzo Dynamic (Varin) 3511/3512 sleeves are available without a silicone top band. There is also a Dynamic model available with a shoulder strap. The Allegro Armsleeve and Armsleeve with Gauntlet are both available without silicone. Medi Harmony armsleeves are also available with and without silicone. If silicone irritates your arm, but you don't want to wear the Varin model with a strap, try "It Stays" body adhesive. It's water soluble, hypoallergenic, and won't harm your sleeve or sensitive skin.
Q. Can I wear a compression sleeve and glove/gauntlet from different manufacturers?
It is advisable to wear a sleeve and glove/gauntlet from the same manufacturer. Some lymphedema garments have reduced compression at the wrist, so when worn together, they don't cause a point of constriction. Colors vary slightly as well. A beige from one company, will not match the beige from another.
Q. Do compression armsleeves come in colors other than beige and black?
They do! Juzo dyes their Soft 2000 and Dynamic sleeves and calls them DreamSleeves. Colors change every Spring and Fall. There are typically 5-7 colors available each season. Juzo recently launched a line of patterned armsleeves called Signature Patterns. Gauntlets are available to match.
LympheDiva's not only offers a variety of colors, they also manufacture a huge selection of prints, from mild to wild. Matching gloves and gauntlets are available from LympheDiva as well.
A. Gloves with fingers are only available in beige with one exception. The Medi 95 Glove with Compressive Fingers is available in beige and mocha to match the sleeves in these 2 colors. This is the only choice.
Q. I have a long arm, what are my choices?
Juzo, Mediven and LympheDivas offer the choice of a "regular" or "long" in their compression sleeves. The Allegro armsleeve also fits long arms.
To measure the length of your arm, bend it slightly at the elbow and measure around the outside of your arm from a point even with your armpit to your wrist. As you can imagine, this is best done with help from another person.
Q. What is the difference between a compression glove and gauntlet?
Gloves have fingers, gauntlets do not. The front edge of a gauntlet stops at the knuckles and does NOT provide any compression to the fingers. Gloves with fingers are sewn by hand from a flat weave fabric that's also used to make custom stockings. They're not woven like sleeves and some gauntlets. This limits your choice of color and makes them quite expensive.