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VidaCura Newsletter VidaCura Newsletter: Taking Care of Ourselves: Health and Wellness Information You Can Use
Health and Wellness Information You Can Use
  Support hose can prevent achy legs on long plane trips.
Compression Stockings: Tips for savvy shopping
Posted: September 13, 2008

Are you shopping for:
Support socks for a cross-country plane trip or to prevent the achy legs and swollen feet that come with long hours of sitting or standing on the job?

Compression stockings to deal with mild-to-moderate aches, pains, leg and ankle swelling, and varicose veins or to hasten recovery after leg surgery (including surgery to remove varicose veins)?

Doctor prescribed compression stockings to treat the moderate-to-severe leg swelling that comes with chronic venous insufficiency and lymphedema, or to prevent skin sores or post-thrombotic syndrome?

If so, do three things before you buy.
First, consult with your doctor to figure out the degree of compression - the "force" the stocking provides to promote circulation and help prevent circulatory and other problems - you need. Following his or her suggestion will help ensure that a leg problem does not become a medical calamity.

Compression is measured in millimeters of mercury (mmHG), with the stated numbers being the compression level at the ankle and decreasing as the stocking moves up the leg. The amount of compression you need depends on the kind and severity of your symptoms: the fewer and milder the symptoms, the lower the compression level.

In general, the following are the most common compression levels:
• 8-15 mmHG = "feel good" compression
• 15-20 mmHG = mild compression
• 20-30 mmHG = moderate compression
• 40-up mmHG = significant compression

Next, figure out - again, with the help of your physician - the type of stocking to best meet your needs. They come in three styles - knee-high, thigh-high and waist-high (pantyhose) - and all compression levels. However, a recent study in the American Journal of Nursing comparing knee-high and thigh-high stockings noted that thigh-highs tended to cause more problems - bunching, rolling, etc. - and were more difficult to put on. You might want to consider that when you are making your decision.

The final thing to consider is size, which you'll find on stocking packages. In general, you can go with shoe size and/or height and weight when you are buying "feel good" stockings.

For the rest, you'll may need a physician's perscription and you'll need to measure:
• The circumference of the ankle
• The circumference, at its widest part, of the calf
• Calf length from floor to knee bend (measure on the outside of the leg)
• The circumference, at its widest part, of the thigh
• The length from the floor to just below the gluteal/butt fold (measure at the back of the leg)
• Around the hips
• Around the waist

To get accurate measurements, you'll need to do them early in the day before legs and ankles have begun to swell. With accurate measurements, you'll be able to determine not only which size stocking best meets your needs but also which style.


Caring for your Support Stockings
To ensure a long life for your stockings, don't wear jewelry (including a watch) when putting them on. If necessary, use aids (such as rubber gloves or a sock donner) to put them on. And, to extend their life - usually 3-6 months - launder them carefully.
• Turn stockings inside out to wash
• If you wash them by machine, put them in a mesh bag
• Use detergent for delicate fabrics (such as Ivory Snow, Woolite or Dreft)
• Wash in warm, never hot, water
• Rinse in cool or cold water
• Never use bleach
• Hang or lay flat to dry

Issue 1: September, 2008
Optimists Live Longer
Eating Smarter
Tips to Avoid Falls
Health Checklist for 50+
Compression Stockings
The Benefits of Grains
Welcome to VidaCura
Letter from the Editor
VidaCura Blog
VidaCura Main Site
AARP Health Resources
New York Times Health NPR: On Health Podcast
NPR: Health Care
What if you don't have health insurance? VidaCura Co-founder Larry Berk offers some advice. Read more>

Do bad times equal better health? Read more>
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