The use of compression garments is one of the cornerstones of lymphoedema treatment. They enable medically appropriate pressure to be applied to the swollen region. This means that the pooling of fluid can be reduced, the limb size and shape preserved and the lymphatic circulation supported and improved. Compression garments provide graduated compression and are available in a variety of styles, sizes, colours, and grades of compression. Severe swelling usually requires stronger support than mild swelling. We get it though - it is often the last thing you want to be putting on when you get dressed in the morning. 

Lymphoedema therapists are skilled at garment prescription and can advise on garment style and whether a pre-sized (Ready to Wear) garment or a custom-made garment is required. Garment fabric may be constructed as a circular knit (made in a circular way during manufacturing: like a pair of stockings or socks) or a flat-knit design (cut to shape and sewn with a seam down the side during manufacturing). Most commonly garments are worn during the day and removed at night, but this will depend on your own swelling. Compression garments need to be replaced regularly in order to provide optimal support. Some people with mild lymphoedema may not require compression garments all the time, and your therapist will talk to you about what is best.

Well fitted compression garments are comfortable to wear. The feeling of compression with the knowledge that you are more in control of swelling in a limb can be very reassuring.

Off the shelf circular knit garments last approximately 3 months each.  Custom-made flat knit garments last approximately 6 months.  Patients need to have two sets of sleeves at a time so they can wear one whilst the other is in the wash.  New garments are ordered as oedema changes as well to ensure they are always fitting correctly.

Most garments that are custom-made take approximately two weeks to come in, unless it is over the December/January period where it may take longer due to supplier breaks in manufacturing.  It is important to remember that whilst you are waiting for your sleeve to arrive, you follow any advice about keeping your swelling under control so when you sleeve arrives it fits well.  If it does not fit well when arriving, then you may need to have a short course of bandaging or daily massage to reduce the swelling so you can fit will into you sleeve.

Compression sleeves are probably not what you had in mind when you woke up in the morning, and it can be a shock to learn you need to have one on most days. Rest assured, we see really great results and reductions in swelling from the use of compression sleeves, so we urge you to give them a go.  We are here to help! 

Amy Geach, Occupational Therapist