Sizing and measuring does matter when it comes to compression stockings. By design it is very important that compression stockings fit properly.
Without a good fit they cannot do their job of optimizing venous return blood flow and reducing edema (swelling) in the legs.
Graduated compression stockings or pantyhose are designed to deliver targeted levels of pressure to the surface of your legs to assist in pushing venous blood back up the legs.
The greatest pressure is applied at the ankle area. Going up the leg the applied pressure decreases being the lowest at the upper thigh.
This graduated distribution of pressure from the bottom to the top of the legs helps to compress any enlarged peripheral veins back to their normal size and shape. In addition, it can re-enable weakened but still healthy valves inside these veins to resume their function of preventing backward flow of the blood.
How to Measure your Legs for a Proper Fit of Compression Stockings
Before you take any measurements, you must first make sure that your feet and legs show no signs of swelling. The best time to take measurements is immediately upon rising in the morning. If you take measurements later, blood and fluid may have already accumulated in your legs. This would make the measurements inaccurate in determining the correct size of your compression stockings or pantyhose. If you do not feel comfortable taking measurements yourself make an early appointment with a certified fitter at a medical supply store to take the measurements for you.
If you choose to take the Measurements of your Legs for Compression Stockings Yourself, proceed as follows:
- Depending on the type of compression stockings you intend to purchase you will need several measurements on your bare legs. You may wish to record these measurements as you take them.
- The first measurement should always be the circumference of your ankle area measured just above the ankle joint at the most narrow part
- The second measurement should be of your calf in the area where the calf muscle is the largest
- For knee high compression stockings you will need the distance from the floor to the point where your knee bends
- For mid-thigh compression stockings you will need to measure the circumference of your leg at the mid-thigh
- The length for the mid-thigh high stockings will be the measurement from mid-thigh to the floor
- For thigh-high compression stockings you will need to measure the circumference at the fold of your buttock and the distance from that fold down to the floor
- For compression pantyhose you may also want to measure the circumference of your leg at the groin area and around the hips and waist areas.
Armed with these dimensions, you can now consult the sizing tables and charts of different manufacturers and resellers to order graduated compression stockings online.
For a more personal shopping experience you have the option of chatting with a certified fitter online to determine which compression garment will suit you best. If you prefer, you can also call online stores via their toll-free phone numbers to discuss your needs and place an order.
Last but not least, you can visit your nearest medical supply store to find knee-high, thigh-high or pantyhose style compression hosiery that will provide adequate graduated compression for your leg(s) and try it on to ensure the proper fit.
Risks and Problems Associated with Wearing the Wrong Size of Compression Stockings:
- Wearing compression stockings that are too tight or if they fold over themselves during wear can restrict the blood flow (tourniquet effect)
- Patients choosing to wear the wrong size and not following doctor’s orders could cause the opposite effect that compression stockings were intended for (e.g. potentially contributing to causing a blood clot instead of preventing it)
- Compression stockings that are worn too loose cannot provide adequate compression to be of any benefit to the wearer (e.g. not enough compression to reduce the diameter of varicose veins for improved blood flow or to reduce swelling in the legs)
Remember to measure your bare legs only when there is no or only minimal swelling!
Before making any changes that could affect your health make sure to talk to your health care provider first to ensure there are no conflicts or contraindications for you.
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