6am: Fumble around for my alarm clock while silently cursing the person who invented mornings. Peel myself out of bed and start my morning ablutions.
6:45am: Get out of the shower and realize that I need to start putting my compression stockings on immediately. Optimistically try pulling my stocking over my still slightly damp left leg. Nope, never going to work.
6:55am: Blow-dry my legs. Wonder if life has any meaning.
7am: Try not to panic about how late I am. Scrunch up the left stocking and start trying to slide it over my foot. Repeatedly lose my grip. Wonder if anyone has ever crushed their foot in a compression sock.
7:10am: Sit on the floor for better leverage. Pull hard until the sock slides over my ankle. Slowly un-scrunch the sock while pulling it up over my leg.
7:20am: See that the thigh-high sock barely reaches my knee. Start pulling the sock up from the bottom as per the manufacturer’s instructions. Succeed in pulling the sock up 5cm and then watch it shrink back to the ankle. Contemplate going back to bed.
7:25am: Lie on my back with my leg in the air as recommended in several instructional videos. Pinch at the fabric around my ankles in an unsuccessful effort to gain purchase.
7:32am: Give up. Grab the top of the stocking with my aching hands and yank as hard as I can. Pump my fist in the air when the sock lands somewhere around mid-thigh. Victory!
7:33am: Remember that I also have right leg. Wonder if life has any meaning.
Medical grade compression hose can be an important tool in dealing with orthostatic intolerances. On the flip side, medical grade compression socks are, putting it mildly, not exactly the easiest garments. They can be difficult to put on and take off, uncomfortable to wear, and expensive. Fortunately for those who benefit from the use of compression hose, there are ways to make that a bit easier.
1. Talk to your doctor. If your doctor recommends compression, make sure you understand what you should be buying and how to wear the socks once you have them. If you are having trouble with your socks or are simply not seeing a benefit, bring that up. As with each aspect of managing a chronic condition, communicating with your health care team is vital.
2. Make sure you have the right fit. Whether you’re buying compression socks for the first time or have been a long-time wearer, it’s important to ensure that they are properly fitted. If the socks are a poor fit, they might not function as intended. (Pal, 2011) Socks that are always falling down, bunching up, or digging into your skin may not be fitted correctly. (legsmart, 2012) You may prefer to have an in-person fitting for your first pair of socks or after a size change. (Linden, 2015) If you are ordering online and are unsure of the sizing, reach out to customer service.
3. Experiment with different methods of putting on your socks to deal with the inevitable challenge. Proper fit may help as socks that are too small or have too much compression will be harder to put on. There are tools on the market that are designed to make that process easier. Depending on your individual circumstances, there may be suitable alternatives that are easier for you to use (e.g. compression wraps). You may find other approaches that work for you. Do bear in mind that sometimes putting on socks can be physically taxing and be mindful of safety.
4. Consider different brands/styles/dealers. You may find that certain brands are more comfortable for you or offer the styles that you prefer. There are also many more colors, patterns, and textures available now than in the past. Once you know what socks work best for you, you may also find that you can get better prices or selection from different dealers. If you are able to shop around, that can help you save money.
5. Keep your receipts if you are keeping track of non-reimbursed medical expenses for tax purposes. If they are prescribed, they are deductible.
The above list is certainly not meant to be either exhaustive or prescriptive. There are undoubtedly some strategies I’ve mentioned that won’t work in your particular situation and others, that I didn’t discuss that could be beneficial. Do what is best for you.
Remember, too, if you’re struggling with this part of your treatment plan, there is sure to be someone else out there who is just as confused or frustrated (probably me). Be open with your treatment team and check with them before taking my advice. The people on your treatment team, in addition to having specific knowledge of your circumstances, have years of experience and education. I’m just a stranger with a keyboard who has a hard time putting on her compression socks.
legsmart. (2012, January 17). 5 Signs Your Compression Stockings Are a Bad Fit. Retrieved from legsmart Resource Center: https://www.legsmart.com/blogs/resources/7033462-5-signs-your-compression-stockings-are-a-bad-fit
Linden, B. V. (2015, January 11). Compression Stocking Tip #2: Where to Buy Compression Stockings. Retrieved from Lymphedema Diary: https://lymphedemadiary.com/2015/01/11/compression-stocking-tip-2-where-to-buy-compression-stockings/#more-438
Pal, S. (2011, March). Compression stockings: One size definitely does not fit all. Retrieved from Lower Extremity Review: http://lermagazine.com/special-section/diabetic-foot-care/compression-stockings-one-size-definitely-does-not-fit-all