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Give Your Legs a Hug

Written by Emily Hartmann MD

June 24, 2020

Our legs carry a heavy demand. They hop out of bed in the middle of the night to tend to your crying baby, they stand for hours while you are in line at Disneyland, they carry you across the finish line when you finally finish that 5K/10K/marathon, and they allow you to dance the night away with your favorite crew!
They are expertly designed but they also are subject to the effects of gravity. Our veins and lymphatic vessels are built to meet the demands of life and gravity; however, given enough running around will lead them to eventually poop out and this results in swelling. We’ve all seen the swollen feet at the end of a long day and this is because fluid is trapped in the tissue. Once the fluid is trapped it is difficult for the fluid to get back into the lymphatic vessels because the pressure is constantly pushing it out and away. At night the pressure goes down and the fluid flows back into the system and we wake up with pretty ankles again. This pattern repeats over and over as we journey through our lives.
Like anything, the system wears out with age. Over time the repeated cycle starts to wear down the one-way valves in the veins and they fail. Blood becomes trapped in the veins and they swell, leading to the dreaded VARICOSE VEINS. This is irreversible and leads to chronic swelling and pain in the legs.
This is where compression stockings come in!
Compression stockings are a great way to support your legs during the day! They provide external pressure which prevents trapping of fluid within the tissue. This helps prevent varicose veins by not allowing blood to pool in the veins making it easier for the system to bring blood out of the legs and back to the heart.
I started wearing them in residency when my legs were getting achy all the time. I ordered them on a website after taking measurements of my legs. Once I wore my first pair I was hooked! I felt amazing and my toes didn’t look like they were going to pop like sausages!! No pain and no swelling. It was a beautiful thing! Pregnancy is also a great time to wear them, and I even found compression support hose that went all the way to my belly. We place very high demand on our body and the use of compression stockings is a great way to give our body the support it deserves.
While compression stockings are well-known to support patients with chronic conditions, I’d like to remind you that you can also use them to PREVENT these conditions down the road. In my book, I’d much rather prevent than treat. This is one of the great secrets that we all hold true, but we often fail to execute on a personal level. How many times have you agreed to preventative maintenance for your car? Why not treat yourself to some preventative maintenance too?
If you walk around for more than 2 hours a day, I recommend wearing these. It’s also great way to prevent the swollen legs during travel especially with the pressure changes during air travel.
Once you have them there’s a small learning curve to putting them on. This youtube video is they way I recommend people apply their stockings. It is important to have as even a spread of pressure as possible.
We only get one pair of legs! Start caring for them now and they will reward you with a lifetime of service!

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