Compression is essential to stop the swollen part of the body from "refilling". Our skin has a certain amount of stretch that acts as our own compression sleeve, but as the skin stretches, it doesn't hold as tightly. Compression works by pushing against the muscles, which helps the body to pump lymph.
Compression can take a few different forms, depending on the patient's needs, and the stage of treatment.
To get the swollen part of the body to a smaller size, the compression will be more intense. Usually, this will be with tight bandages or adjustable wraps. It must be done by a trained therapist. This is called the Reduction stage.
Once the body part is reduced, the treatment is about keeping the swelling down. This is called the Maintenance Stage, and the patient wears a compression garment, that looks like a thick stocking or sock.
Tips for Wearing Compression Garments
Garments should be put on first thing in the morning, as the arm or leg will be at their smallest
it prevents the limb from refilling with fluid.
it's easier to put the garment on
Wear rubber gloves when putting on the compression garment,
Helps to smooth out any wrinkles that might trap fluid.
Help protect the fabric from fingernails and scratches, the garment will last longer.
Remove jewellery and make sure your hands and fingernails are well cared for before putting the garment on to protect the garment fabric.
Wait at least an hour after putting on moisturiser.
The best time to put moisturiser on is at night time when you take the garment off to wash it
Garments don't need to be warn at night time, unless being used for scar therapy.
They do need to be washed daily; it helps the fabric to remain stretchy and tight.
If garments are worn properly and looked after properly, they will last 6months of daily wear.
after 6 months, they don't work as well and need to be replaced. This is always a good time to check measurements with your therapist and ensure you have the right fit.
Caring for your Compression
Wash your garment every day.
Residue of skin, ointments and dirt and dust can damage the elastic nature of the garment, so daily washing extends the garments la
Your compression garment can be washed in the washing machine on a gentle or delicate wash cycle (40°C or less).
Do use a liquid detergent - washing powder may not dissolve fully and become stuck in the fibres of the garment.
Do not use fabric softeners or shampoos.
Use a laundry bag or pillow case to protect the garment from wear and tear in the machine.
To dry the garment, hang it loosely out of direct sunlight.
You can reduce the drying time by rolling the garment in a thick towel to remove extra moisture, but do not leave rolled up.
Do not hang on a heater
Do NOT dryclean
If tumble drying, use a delicate cycle and refer to the care symbols on the garment.
Putting Your Compression On
Compression garments need to fit well, like a second skin, to be effective. Poorly fitted garments can be aggravate lymphoedema symptoms instead of helping, so putting your garments on the right way is essential to make them work for you.
Night Time Garments
Once at the maintenance stage, it usually isn't necessary or comfortable to wear compression overnight. There are however options to support your lymphoedema overnight.