How Can Compression Stockings Help With Multiple Sclerosis?

Compression Stockings Can Help MS Patients with Edema

Multiple sclerosis patients are often affected by edema in the feet, ankles and legs in general.  While there are numerous possible causes for edema, with MS sufferers the swelling of the lower extremities is frequently the result of reduced mobility or immobility.

In the case of a fully mobile individual, the flexing of the leg muscles (calf muscle pump) assists in pushing the blood back up through the leg veins to the heart and lungs to be resupplied with oxygen.  With a person that is immobile and unable to exercise their leg muscles adequately to produce this pumping action, the sheer force of gravity can cause blood and lymph fluid to accumulate and pool in the legs and feet and cause significant swelling. This problem may be exacerbated if the individual has any existing venous issues such as varicose veins or defective valves inside the veins.


Compression Stockings Can Help Reduce Swelling Caused by Edema

Due to its progressiveness ranging from mild to moderate to severe lymphedema, it is particularly important to address swelling in the extremities as a result of the accumulation of fluids as soon as possible.  If not treated properly, edema in the lower limbs can eventually lead to fibrosis with a significant risk of infection.  Fibrosis is the formation of fibrous connective tissue or scar tissue. In the late or severe stage of fibrosis, the tissue deteriorates and hardens, rendering it irresponsive to any treatment. At this point the condition is also irreversible.

Fortunately there are a number of things that can be done before lymphedema reaches such a severe and potentially debilitating stage.  It should be mentioned that at this time there are no medications other than some medical trial drugs that are capable of reducing swelling caused by lymphedema.  Compression devices and the skillful hands of massage therapists are the most commonly used measures to provide the care for lymphatic drainage.


Compression Garments and Equipment That Can Help with Lymphedema

  • Compression garment
  • Compression stockings
  • Pneumatic sequential pumps

Compression pump systems emulate the muscle pump action such as when you are walking or moving.  They provide sequential compression by delivering equal pressures distally to proximally in all chambers of a sleeve-like garment, which creates a “milking” type effect to the lower limbs.  This pushes fluid out of the lower portion of the legs, thereby reducing the swelling.  After the swelling has been reduced in this way, the patient can wear compression stockings to prevent the limbs from swelling again.   Compression stockings should be worn whenever the extremities are not being drained by the compression pump system.

As a side note compression pump equipment is frequently covered by insurance and it is easy to operate.


Additional Points to Consider for Lymphedema Patients:

  • It is important to be very vigilant about skin care to help prevent breaking of the skin as well as injury and infections.
  • Elevate the legs frequently to help with drainage.  It has been reported on forums and message boards that it is much more effective for drainage if the patient rests with the legs elevated. Sitting in a chair or recliner puts the body in a bent position, which can interfere with draining fluid out of the lower extremities. Lying in a bed with your legs elevated is much more beneficial.
  • Perform stretching exercises with the affected limbs to activate the muscle pump action.  This can be done either on your own or with somebody’s help.
  • Take steps to lower sodium intake based on physician recommendations.
  • Use prescription diuretics.  This is usually a very last resort because in most cases they do not produce any significant results with lymphedema patients.

For additional information and resources we also suggest visiting  MS World Forum

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