A common denominator for many of us with autoimmune, rheumatologic, cardiovascular, or neurological issues is that we have difficulty with our circulatory system. Whether you have swelling in your ankles, shortness of breath and dizziness with standing, or many other hundreds of symptoms, one thing that can be helpful is compression wear. Personally, I am often short of breath/queasy and dizzy on standing, and I have a racing heart all the time. One of my (many) neurologists suggested I try compression, and on my worst days, it does seem to make a difference!
I was a little overwhelmed, though, when I began to look for items. It was hard at first to find things that were “fun” (which is always on the list of criteria for me, if possible) and affordable. Who knew tight clothing could be so expensive!? Over time, I found a few things that worked well for me–and a few that did not. Here are some of the products I’ve tried or hope to try, to get you started on your own search for compression clothing.
The first thing that almost always comes to mind when you think “compression” is socks, am I right? They certainly seem to be the most common choice. There are a wide range of options, sizes, and compression strengths out there, and what you choose should ultimately reflect what you, personally, need.
A Caucasian woman, seen from the knees down, wears knee-high white compression stockings with light gray wide stripes, and thin pink strip through the gray lines.
I’ll start with my absolute favorite socks. If I could wear these every single day, I absolutely would! These compression socks are soft and stretchy, and so unbelievably comfortable. Many days, putting them on honestly feels like getting a massage. It puts pressure all along my legs–though a gentle pressure– that helps soothe some of my muscle pain. The material is soft enough that it doesn’t bother me with my small fiber neuropathy. They are what I would consider middle-range compression socks–not as loose as a regular sock, but certainly not the tightest on the market. But for me, for regular days at work or out and about, they provide the right amount of support and comfort. They’re available from multiple stores, and I watched until I caught them on sale and used a coupon, to reduce their cost. I’ve had mine for several months, and they are still holding up well. I typically hand wash them or run them through the washing machine and hang them to dry.
A box for black compression stockings reads “Soothe Tired, Achy Legs & Feet! ” in bold yellow lettering on bright blue band, with “As Seen on TV” image. Beneath this, on a white band, the outline of a person’s leg with knee-high socks reads, “Miracle Socks- Anti-Fatigue Compression Socks.” A drawing of a person’s lower leg in black socks, with a blue arrow wrapping upward around the foremost leg, is seen below and to the right. To the left, in black writing, “Helps to: Reduce Swelling, Enhance Circulation, Soothe Achy Legs & Feet, Relieve Symptoms of Varicose Veins.” A small black box reads “1 Pair- Black,” and a yellow starburst circle under the the image of the black socks reads, “Great for Travel.”
Less exciting, but far more affordable, is this practical pair of black socks. These socks provide slightly more compression than the previous pair, and their black color makes them easier to match to my work outfits. They, also, feel like a massage when I first put them on. The fabric is slightly rougher than the gray and white socks, but still comfortable. They’re widely available, including at retail pharmacies, and are typically sold for less than $15. If you’ve spent any time looking at compression socks, you know this is a bargain! I’ve had mine for almost a year and wear them frequently, and they still hold up as well as they did when I first bought them (I also hand wash these, or wash in the machine and hang to dry).
A knee-high black sock, with red toes, band, and heel and red cherries with stems scattered throughout sock.
I’ve said many times that, given my choice, I will always choose something that’s a little fun and full of personality. That includes in looking for compression socks. This particular pair is on my wishlist, so I can’t speak personally to how well they hold up. However, I’ve bought many items from this particular store in the past, and I’ve always been happy with their quality. These compression socks provide moderate support, come in a wide variety of colors and patterns, and are super affordable (I’ve written previously about another company that also carries fun socks for men and women if you’re in the market for “fun”).
Tights and Nylons
A woman is seen from waist down wearing nude-colored nylons. She stands flat footed, with left leg slightly bend forward.
Sometimes you just want to be a little fancy! Whether it’s for a date night, work, or just to feel nice, I love a good dress-up day. I had a small stash of regular nylons (including some with tummy control, which inadvertently do provide a little bit of compression), but went in search of compression nylons for fancy flare days. This pair fit the bill, and I was able to buy them when they were on sale to save a little money (why are these all so expensive?). They are a bit of struggle to get into, if I’m honest, but once they’re on there’s no doubt that they are compressing! The fabric isn’t quite as nice as I would have hoped, more like a very fine mesh. But they look the part, perform like they should, and they’ve held up well to several months’ worth of use.
A woman is seen from waist down, standing on her toes in black opaque tights.
If I’m honest, I’m very much a sweater-skirt-and-tights sort of girl. I have a nice collection of opaque and sweater tights, and I love to wear them. None of my current collection provide compression, though, so these are also on my wishlist. They’re quite pricey, so I would definitely watch for them to go on sale. These provide a higher level of compression, 20-30 mmHg, so they would offer great support. They also come in a variety of colors to match your favorite cool-weather outfit.
A Caucasian woman is shown from waist-down, barefoot, wearing black leggings. She stands on her left foot, flexing the right leg forward.
I have a confession to make: my neurologist recommended that I try thigh-high compression socks and an abdominal binder. I looked and looked for a good pair of thigh high socks that didn’t cost a fortune and wouldn’t roll down my legs as I wore them, and I never did find what I wanted. So I began a side quest: to find a good pair of leggings that could support my whole leg and abdomen. This is the first pair I bought. They provide mild-moderate compression, but it’s enough for me to keep me going smoothly through the day (and tight enough that I always feel a little relieved when I take them off in the evenings). They’re made of a somewhat satiny material that is comfortable, and also easy to wear under other clothing. I typically wear them under my scrubs when I’m working, and no one is the wiser (and my scrubs don’t bunch or stick to them, since they have that silky finish). I’ve also worn them as tights under skirts, with a pair of ankle boots. Other times I wear them on their own under a sweater or plaid flannel shirt. I wash them in the washing machine and line dry them. I will say, they’re somewhat of a medium shade of black–not quite as dark as I anticipated. But in every other way, they’ve been great!
A Caucasian woman is seen from waist down, with long curly blonde hair visible at the top of the image. She wears dark gray compression leggings, and black running shoes with white stripes and white soles. She stands slightly on tiptoe, with back facing.
Very similar to the previous pair, this pair of gray leggings has been a great addition to my wardrobe. They are actually lighter than they appear in the picture above, and they are a nice alternative to the black pair I own. They work equally well under clothing or on their own. Like the black pair, they do provide quite a bit of compression at the waist, in particular, which can be helpful.
The torso of a man with medium skin tone is seen in black t-shirt with hands behind his back, wearing a wide gray elastic abdominal binder.
On the recommendation of my neurologist, I did find an abdominal binder. I was actually surprised by how much it helped me in reducing my feelings of shortness of breath and/or nausea when standing, particularly when I went from sitting to standing suddenly. I looked long and hard for a binder in that sweet spot between effectiveness and affordability. This one was far more affordable than others on the market; however, it does roll somewhat as I wear it and I’m not sure it would hold up well to being washed. I typically wear it over a camisole or undershirt, and once washed it by hand. It does have an antibacterial finish, though, that prevents it from going skunky with use. In addition to the rolling, I would recommend making sure you purchase the right size, as it seems to run on the smaller end. I read the size chart and ordered what I thought would be my size, but within a few weeks the seam at the back had begun to separate and the elastic was appearing over-stretched. I think one size up probably would have put less strain on it.
What kinds of compression wear have worked well for you? What are your go-to items? I’d love to hear about them below!
2 responses to “Compression Wear”
What a great post! It’s ridiculous how expensive compression wear is, isn’t it? I saved up for a pair of Juzo, which were highly recommended, but the energy expenditure to get them on and off was too much, so I rarely wore them. I think I paid $120 *after* coupons, several years ago. Oof! I still have circulatory issues, low blood pressure, and syncope episodes, and recent Rx for more tights, so I’ll need look into some of your recommendations. (Thank you!) I’ve actually found that Trioral re-hydration salts help a lot with my POTS and dizziness, and Zofran helped with the nausea cased by low BP, so I’m able to manage a bit without the socks/tights.
It really is crazy how expensive they are! I had no idea until I started shopping… I’m glad you’ve found some work-arounds that are helpful to you. Hydration makes a huge difference sometimes. Hopefully you remain stable and can avoid having to use compression wear as much as possible (and/or find bargains when you do need them)!
LikeLiked by 1 person