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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. But there are different types of stockings, and they need to fit right. So your doctor will recommend what you need.

These stockings are the most common treatment for varicose veins. They help the blood circulate in your legs. This can prevent skin ulcers and keep blood from building up in the legs.

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 even all the way up the leg. These don't cost as much. But they don't provide the compression you need to treat serious symptoms or 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. 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.
  • Put silicone lotion (such as ALPS) or talcum powder on your legs to help the stockings slide on.
  • 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.
  • How to put on stockings:
    • Turn your stocking inside out. Then put your toe in as far as it will go.
    • Readjust the stocking by folding it back onto itself at the ankle. Then hold both sides of the folded stocking.
    • Pull toward your body as far as you can.
    • Fold back the stocking again farther up on your leg. Then pull the stocking up to that point.
    • Repeat folding back and pulling until the stocking is in the right place.
  • You may want to wear rubber gloves. They can help you hold the stockings better.
  • If your stockings don't have toes, use a silk "slip sock." (You can get one from your medical supplier.) This will help the stocking slide over your foot better. When you're done, pull off the sock through the open toe.
  • If you still can't get your stockings on, you may want to use a "stocking butler." This is a metal device that holds the stocking open while you step into it. It is often recommended for people who have problems grasping, leaning, or pulling. Before you buy one, try it first. Some people find them hard to use.

What else should you know about compression stockings?

  • You will probably need to buy a new pair every 4 to 6 months.
  • They may feel tight or uncomfortable at first, but many people get used to them.
  • It is important to think about the pros and cons of stockings. You may not like them. But they may help relieve symptoms.

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.