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Learning About Using Compression Stockings

What are compression stockings?

Compression stockings may be used for problems like varicose veins, skin ulcers, and deep vein thrombosis (blood clot in the leg). But there are different types of stockings, and they need to fit right. So your doctor will recommend what you need.

These stockings help prevent blood and fluid from pooling in the legs. This may help skin ulcers heal and prevent them from coming back. The stockings can also help prevent blood clots and relieve symptoms from deep vein thrombosis and varicose veins.

Prescription stockings are tightest at the foot. They get less and less tight farther up on your legs.

The kind you buy without a prescription have lighter elastic. So the pressure is typically even all the way up the leg. These don't cost as much. They may help relieve mild symptoms. But they do not have enough compression to prevent skin ulcers.

How do you use compression stockings?

  • If your stockings are new, you may want to wash them before you put them on. This can make them more flexible and easier to put on. It's a good idea to wash them by hand.
  • Most of the time it's best to put on your stockings early in the morning. This is when you have the least swelling in your legs.
  • Wear them every day while you're awake, especially while you're on your feet.
  • Put silicone lotion or cornstarch on your legs to help the stockings slide on. If your stockings contain latex, or you aren't sure if they contain latex, do not use other types of lotions or creams on your legs when you wear the stockings. You may use other lotions or creams when you are not wearing the stockings.
  • Sit in a chair with a back while you put on the stockings. This gives you something to lean against as you pull them up.
  • You may want to wear rubber gloves. They can help you hold the stockings better.
  • How to put on stockings:
    • Hold the top of the stocking with one hand.
    • With your other hand, reach inside the stocking and push your arm in until you can grab the heel.
    • When you have a firm grip on the heel, pull your hand back up through the stocking, turning it inside out as far as the heel.
    • Put your toe in as far as it will go. Then centre your heel in the stocking and pull it up slightly, just around your heel.
    • Use both hands to grasp the folded part of the stocking about 5 centimetres (2 inches) below the fold. Pull that section up over your ankle. Be careful not to grab and pull at the top of the stocking because that can cause it to tear.
    • Again, grasp the folded part of the stocking about 5 centimetres (2 inches) below the fold. Pull that section up.
    • Continue pulling the stocking up in short sections until it is in its final position. This depends on the stocking. The final position may be just below your knee. Or it might be above your knee.
    • Run your hands over the stocking to smooth it out.
  • Try not to let the top band roll down while you wear the stockings.
  • If it is difficult for you to put your stockings on, there are tools that might help you. Ask your doctor or a medical supplier for advice. They may recommend something that can make it easier to put your stockings on.

What else should you know about compression stockings?

  • You will probably need to buy a new pair every 3 to 6 months.
  • They may feel tight or uncomfortable at first, but many people get used to them.

Where can you learn more?

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Care instructions adapted under license by your healthcare professional. If you have questions about a medical condition or this instruction, always ask your healthcare professional. Healthwise, Incorporated disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information.