Most people with POTS suffer from venous pooling, AKA blood pooling in their legs. It is painful! Imagine yourself jamming items into a bag. The bag stretches and stretches, and it gets heavier and heavier. In the case of venous pooling it is a similar situation. More blood is pooling in my legs than they were meant to hold. It is quite painful. I think perhaps the pain comes from my skin and muscles trying to accommodate all of the extra volume, much like that bag trying to accommodate more items than it was meant to hold. It also feels like someone strapped three pound weights to each of my legs. Each step feels heavy, as though I am walking in water up to my thighs. I know three pound weights aren’t much, but they are when I’m fatigued, my legs are already in pain, and I didn’t choose to put them there! Then there’s the appearance of venous pooling. My feet turn bright red and, after about 5 minutes or so, the veins begin to bulge. It’s not attractive. My legs aren’t the only place I feel the venous pooling. All of that blood being trapped in my legs by the pull of gravity means the rest of my body isn’t getting enough blood circulated to it, including my brain. Trust me, life is much more difficult when your brain isn’t getting enough blood!
So this is why I don’t understand why so many people with POTS choose not to wear compression stockings.
Edit: I don’t want to create insensitive non-sickies, so I want to insert here that some people don’t wear them for good reason. For example, my grandpa needs them to help with circulation, but his legs do not respond well despite correct sizing. They swell up. Some people (see comments) will faint from just the tiniest bit of extra warmth. Some people cannot get them on without assistance. Okay, resume your reading. 🙂
I used to be one of them. When they first put those silly hospital ones on me (real ones aren’t really anything like those), I hated them! I begged people to take them off of me. No one would except my fiance, Jake. Then I realized… They’re not very comfortable, they’re not fashionable, and they can be hot, but none of that is worse than the pain and negative effects of blood pooling. Even if I can deal with the pain and extra weight in my legs, what about my organs not getting adequate blood supply? What about our blood pressures dropping from trying to compensate for venous pooling? Our bodies struggle enough and I feel we owe it to them to help them out where we are able. Exercise is one way to battle venous pooling, but that’s not always possible on a regular basis for the chronically ill. There’s rarely a time you can’t wear compression stockings. You don’t have to actively do anything except tolerate them. Check out my pictures below. See what a difference they make?
Here’s my experience with them
First off, I’m not going to lie to you. They are tight, but not intolerably so, especially if you get a good brand. They are expensive ($80.00), but they last around 6 months when worn every day. That is 44 cents a day to avoid all of the awful things that come along with blood pooling. They can be warm. This is nice in the winter, but not so much in the summer. They can be cute and look like tights, but there are times when I really miss my bare legs! At first, they can be tricky to get on, but I now can get each on on in about 8 seconds. I really was opposed to wearing them when the doctor suggested it, but I will be the first to say they work wonders.
I wear thigh high 20-30 mmHg compression stockings. I’ve heard of people wearing higher or lower levels of compression. I put them on first thing in the morning before getting out of bed and take them off in the evening before my bath. Every once in a while, I take them off early for a treat, but only if I know I will be laying flat the rest of the evening. I do not wear them swimming or to bed. I really dislike wearing them outdoors in the heat, but I avoid being outdoors in the heat anyways because I have severe heat intolerance. Indoors, I do get a little warm sometimes. I battle this by sitting with a fan directed at me. As for the compression, it took about a week to get used to. I really don’t notice it anymore although it always feels good to get them off. When I exercise my legs, I take them off. I exercise horizontal to the ground, so blood pooling shouldn’t be a major issue. Also, I have no proof for this idea, but I feel like my legs have to do more work if there aren’t stockings there helping them out with circulation. The sooner my legs look like the Hulk’s, the sooner I won’t have to wear compression stockings all day everyday!
The only brand I’ve liked is Jobst. In my opinion they’re the softest. I really like the black opqaue ones because they just look like tights. The sheer type tend to be very reflective in areas, especially in pictures. At the level of compression we need, they will never be truly sheer. Don’t expect them to look like your natural skin tone. They just won’t which is a bummer, but so is venous pooling! People won’t notice they’re not you’re skin unless they’re paying attention. At a glance, they won’t notice something amiss. I love my open toe ones for the warmer months because I can still wear flip flops.