By Denise Bennett

The Urban Dictionary says that love-hate relationships are complicated, but in the end they’re exciting and intoxicating because there is a fine line between love and hate.

While donning a compression garment may produce a level of excitement; heart racing, sweat dripping, and flushing of the cheeks, I have never found compression garments to be intoxicating. Maybe the secret to getting them on is to become intoxicated prior to sticking your feet into those tiny leg garments that look more like something you would put on a toddler.

compression garments | photo of beige compression garmentsI own probably a dozen or so pairs of compression by a variety of different manufacturers; Juzo, Solidea, and Bioflect just to name a few. I say I have a love/hate relationship with them because; I love how my legs look when I have them on, how “tight and snug” all my jiggly parts feel while contained inside of them. Nothing moves, and I do mean nothing. I love that I have a sense of security in them that I can’t completely explain, but probably is related to broken capillaries, a varicose vein, and legs a shade of white that speaks to the lack of sun exposure. To a certain extent, compression makes me feel more “normal”, and I have learned to rock them with hemlines I would never dream of wearing without them. So, the love part has to do with the style freedom they have provided me, and also, they seem to energize my legs and minimize swelling in the sweltering Texas summer heat. The day I was diagnosed, I wore a fabulous, above the knee jean dress in public for the first time in two decades. That was exciting, and somewhat intoxicating.

I really don’t feel that they provided any level of clinical improvement prior to liposuction, but even then I felt more confident with them on. I think that when most of us first think of compression, we think of those horribly-colored support stockings that we have seen on “very old” ladies featured on greeting cards that are designed to make us laugh at the aging process. They are funny in that context, but not on MY legs. Thankfully, compression garments come in all sorts of varieties and colors. This improvement in the design and fashonability of compression garments unfortunately, will not keep you from hating them at some level. The first time you open up the packaging and a: Barbie-doll sized item falls out, you know instinctively, that this isn’t going to go well, and is probably going to hurt your already hyper-sensitive legs.

I know there are a lot of women out there that hate them, and never get used to them. You find yourself struggling to get them on and off, requiring assistance, and experiencing discomfort all day long while wearing them. It is a real battle. I found a couple of things helpful. First of all, laying them across my bed, lining my legs up with them, sliding my feet into the waist opening and then gliding my leg down to the foot before starting the process of pulling them upwards worked well for me. Other women find that a piece of equipment called a “donner” is helpful, or rubber gloves can be used to help ease them upwards.

The most important thing is to find the right type and size garment. Find a good fitter and get good measurements. No matter how much you end up paying for compression and no matter how good they are, there is no benefit to them if they remain in a drawer. Each of us has a different shaped leg, a different level of pain, a different goal, a different climate to manage and quite honestly, a different level of tolerance. One physician told me that since I don’t have lymphedema, they would not help lipedema at all. If this is true for you as well, maybe your decision will be not to wear them until you are recovering from liposuction.

I wore my compression garments faithfully during the months preceding my liposuction and for the eight months since. I’m not suggesting that this is what you need to do. For me, what started as an exercise of complying with “conservative treatments” for insurance coverage turned into a habit leading up to surgery. After surgery, I wanted the best possible return on my investment, and followed the instructions provided by my surgeon. Even though I hate how hot they are, I still wear them daily to work or if traveling any significant distance. I feel safe with them on, and when flying, I no longer set off security alarms and do not require additional pat-downs due to inner thigh/knee jiggly parts. A check mark in the compression bonus column. Smile.

Sure, they can be uncomfortable, and aren’t particularly sexy, but I think the truth is not that we hate THEM as much as we hate that we have to wear them. We hate what they represent to us: that we have Lipedema, and that we live with the fear that we may lose our mobility or that Lipedema will never truly be gone from us.

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