It seems pretty universal that POTS specialists recommend compression clothing for people with POTS. Individuals with blood clotting disorders, lymphedema, swelling issues, hypotension, and even athletes are advised to wear compression socks/tights or abdominal binders. But what really is this stuff and why is it even useful? Why is it worth the $120 price tag?
Compression tights are typically graduated, meaning that the clothing is tightest at the foot and gets less tight as you move up the leg. The level of compression is shown in mmHg, i.e. 15-20, 20-30, or 30-40 mmHg. If you are one of the lucky few to be prescribed prescription level compression gear, we are talking about 20-30 mmHg + compression. If you have POTS or hypotension, we gotta go all out for the full 30-40 mmHg.
So how do these things work? By adding compression to the feet, you are forcing the blood back up to the heart, helping circulatory and lymphatic systems, and giving your blood pressure a nice boost. Seems like a miracle for someone with severe POTS or hypotension. Well, let me just say, it’s not a miracle– it’s pure magic. And it works.
Which is why I am completely baffled when I go to physical therapy for POTS and I am the only one wearing compression. On group posts, people talk about compression, but no one really does wear compression like they are supposed to: high level compression tights, all day, every day. Honestly, they help so much I can’t even imagine going more than a day or two without them. I definitely wouldn’t go out of my house on a warm day without them– that to me would be like skipping a dose a medication.
Do people just not want their symptoms to get better? Doubtful. Are they just too expensive? Well, there are some versions direct from China for like $10-20, so again, unsure. My final conclusion is that people must find them uncomfortable and ugly. Bingo, me thinks.
So let me dedicate the rest of this blog post to convincing you that wearing compression is no weird doctor myth. It can be that critical tool to have in your toolbox that you’ve been missing for a long time.
- They Prevent Blood Pooling
If you have circulation problems, I am sure you have come across looking down at your feet and seeing them look dead and purple. It’s like you have a cadaver foot attached to your still living body. It doesn’t look pretty and it sure doesn’t help your medical condition. With POTS, this is especially problematic at night, when you’ve been in bed for an hour or two, are finally thermo-regulated and warm, and damn… that last liter of water has finally made it to your bladder. That rush of blood to your feet as you run as quickly as possible to the bathroom before your heart starts jumping out of your chest. That feeling— that can be prevented by compression stockings.
Blood pooling is happening every time you stand and putting on compression before you get out of bed in the morning will keep it to a minimum throughout the day.
Alternative uses of compression that have helped me is wearing thin compression socks while showering. The heat of the shower is the evil villain to your poor circulatory system and causes even MORE blood pooling. Now, showering doesn’t have to be the worst part of my day– it actually can be somewhat enjoyable, and it doesn’t take as long to recover from it as before using the compression socks. Throwing on a pair of compression socks before getting out of bed for those late night bathroom runs also will help a lot.
I often read online of people complaining that compression is the most uncomfortable in the summer, so they wear them every day except hot days. WAIT… WHAT?!? When you are in warmer temps, your blood vessels are opening more to help your body cool off, which then lowers your blood pressure, causing even MORE blood pooling and even MORE tachycardia. I understand the feeling hot business– I cannot tolerate temperatures above 70 degrees. But the fact is, if you have these issues you should probably not be sun bathing on the beach in July in the first place and if you do have to be out in the heat, those compression tights are going to help you stay vertical.
You can even buy crotchless, open toe and sheer compression tights for the summer! Trust me, it’s worth it.
Not convinced yet? That’s OK.
2. They Can Make Your Body Look More Sexy
If you are like me, you have had a love handle or two in your lifetime. I am a very small person and will probably get a lot of comments about this, but my weight literally only goes towards developing the love handles. Wearing 30-40 mmHg compression will make every person happier with their figure. It’s like super Spanx. It makes your body feel so “put-together” and that may be because you are literally jamming your body into super tight tights, but after the first week of tightness misery, you will become addicted to this feeling and love wearing them. It’s like you are constantly being hugged and it never gets old!
So go ahead, wear a pair, and appreciate how POTS contributed to your new and improved bod.
3. They Can Be Fun and ADD to Your Style
I was reading a post recently about people being too embarrassed about wearing compression tights with shorts. Honestly, I do not understand this much, as I think it can actually look pretty cute. Online, you may first only see the icky beige colored tights that look like they came from an old lady’s attic. But I have some that are pink, navy, black, dark purple, tie-dyed, and grey. If you are vampire pale like me, the beige color blends in so well, a lot of people have commented that they didn’t even realize I was wearing tights. Also, if you wear the open toed ones, the public may mistake you for a professional dancer, which has happened to me. What a plus!
Unless you are wearing the open crotch ones, you are also forever done with worrying about your underwear lines, your underwear showing through white clothes, or just accidentally crack-attacking poor strangers behind you. Enjoy the freedom!
4. They Help Save You Money on Razors
And finally, showering is already a chore– why extend that time in the heat by shaving your legs every few days in the summer? These tights will cover it all and make none the wiser. If I haven’t convinced you by now that compression tights are amazing, this definitely has to be a tipping point in the pro-tights direction.
In summary, compression tights are a great way to add some style to your wardrobe, add a non-pharmaceutical “medication” to your treatment plan, and add a boost to your blood flow. People use them all the time to avoid blood clots on flights and during bed rest and during exercise. You will get all these benefits AND MORE.
So don’t think these amazing fashion accessories are just for your granny– own them and rock them!
Here are some links for you to find compression at varying price levels, but be sure to speak with your doctor first about the level of compression and type (stocking, sock, abdominal binder, etc) that is right for you! Thanks to some fellow POTS people for the info on ordering direct from China!