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Q & A - Support Hose

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Questions and Answers (Q&A), Our Way
Insightful, Conversational, Encouraging,
Long-winded, and from Experience
with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
Orthostatic Intolerance and

Q&A Index

Do Support Hose Really Help?
Where Might I Buy? Why Should I Wear?

Table of Contents for this Page
The Question
Start low and go slow
Modify for success!
Tax deduction with a letter of medical necessity, sample enclosed
Products Links
Member letters about support hose

Q. When I hear about Support Hose I think "Ugh!" They are hot, too much trouble, hard to find. Are they really worth the effort?

Support Hose / Body Shapers for Symptom Relief

Adapted from Elly's meeting notes and group emails


Support hose may help reduce symptoms (cognitive problems, leg aches, headaches, irritability, numbness... the many symptoms of orthostatic intolerance, chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia) by assisting the circulatory system with returning blood from the lower half of body (legs and abdomen) to the upper (heart, brain, eyes) via graduated compression. Graduated compression means there is much squeezing power at the feet end and the squeezing power slowly decreases on the way up. This was the principle of vertical floating in the pool therapy some of us did awhile back as well.

People are reluctant to give it a reasonable test because of the  discomfort, but hose can really really really help - especially if you have to be out and about and not feeling good because of CFS or OI. It may be worth feeling pressure from the hose, so you can think and remember better through an important appointment.

There are many modifications to make wearing support hose more bearable - cutting the waist band a little if too tight, wetting them down with a spray bottle if you get too warm, making a whole in the crotch for air circulation. Men or women can use the socks or thigh highs, but the results are noticeably best with thigh and waist high. Start with lightweight like Legg's Sheer Energy. When ready, and if necessary, try increasing to moderate strength, then surgical weight, and then prescription strength if you decide to go that far. Several in the group stopped at non-prescription surgical weight, as that was plenty helpful and plenty difficult to put on. Yes, you can injure yourself putting the on so be careful  and factor that in to your criteria. Approach support hose like a medication, as if you are gently increasing the dose. If you start too high - with surgical weight, your head may feel pressurized and you may be so uncomfortable that you'll could give up before you see the benefit.

GETTING STARTED: Start Low and Go Slow

Doctors giving advice on this tend to say things like,

"Elastic support hose can help to minimize the degree of peripheral venous pooling and enhance venous return.  We recommend 30-40 mmHg of counter-pressure and they should come up to the waist.  If the stockings are only knee-high, a line of edema can form just above the stockings.  Their use can be limited by their tolerability as the stockings can be hot, itchy and uncomfortable."
Satish R Raj MD MSCI
Journal of India Pacing and Elector physiology,
"The  Postural  Tachycardia  Syndrome  (POTS): Pathophysiology, Diagnosis & Management"

If you start with hose that strong and aren't given any advice to counter the drawbacks, one is likely to give up fast. Its okay with us if you give up, but only after you've heard there are ways to optimize your effort,after you've heard from real people that "Yes! Wearing support hose helped me be smarter, less irritable, and have more stamina even though I had to work a little at getting them, at being able to wear them."

As with most treatments, and support hose is a treatment, it is good to start off with a low dose and adjust to that before increasing. Low dose support hose are brands like L'eggs Sheer Energy and Hanes Alive, both available at many area stores and from the One Hanes Place catalog and website. 1-800-671-1674

(Way back in my school days, we'd occasionally have to dress up, I'd wear Sheer Energy and I always felt a little better, smarter, more energetic. Now I understand why! - Elly)

Another way to start with a low dose is with Men's support socks. Both ladies and men can wear men's socks! Just be careful that the elastic band used to hold them up isn't slowing your circulation more than it is helping. Doc Ortho men's ultralight socks

Another "low dose" is to start with a Capri shaper. See end for more details and testimony of group member whose headaches went away!

Doc Ortho.

If available, start with a size bigger than need and wear those until used to it. Sometimes that is enough. We don't want anyone hurt putting on their hose or over constricted by their hose. You want to find the amount of constriction that helps, without being so strong you become dependent on them or create other problems by wearing them. Putting them on can be a vigorous struggle, and sometimes it is better to wear a bigger size. lower strength to avoid the injury that comes from recommended style. Rarely have I seen prescription weight worth the money or worth the hassle to get them on for people in our group. Let us know if your experience is different.

Modify how you wear Support Hose for Success

Snip the waist band in several places if too constrictive. As you get used to the each "dose" try wearing some with fewer cuts. It's okay if you always need to cut the waistband; the constriction on your legs can still help greatly. Yes, it is possible you'll develop runs this way. Use clear nail polish to halt runs or don't worry about the runs. You can still be helped by products with flaws!

Cut a slit in the crotch to give more air circulation.  Many people with vulvar conditions need to do this.

Wet down the hose in summer if they make you too hot. The evaporation will be very cooling and has helped some walk the dog on those hot days. Use a squirt bottle or the garden hose.
Support hose can make your legs look even in color whether it be tan or very dark brown, or navy or blue. This can help the fashion challenged pull off a together look, or help one pass for more "normal" looking if that is called for on occasion. Sometime blotchy legs from poor circulation can be a turn off. Added bonus: support hose can even and hide unshaven legs!

Cautions: There is a warning out there about wearing support hose while lying down or while sleeping flat, that too much blood can be pushing up toward the head leading to pressure headaches and such. Toni and I never found this a problem, and she even used going to sleep with hose on a strategy for being able to move better the next morning when she had to leave the house. If you feel too much pressure after you recline or lie down with hose, remove them. There are people in the group, who only wear them when going out to appointments and they consider that worth the trouble. Combining support hose and a drug that constricts blood vessels (caffeine, midodrine/proamitine) would have additive effects.

Higher Strength/Dose Support Hose

As ready, increase to 10-20 or  15-20 mm Hg Compression. Some places call that Firm some call that Moderate.
It is the one that is than surgical weight, but more than the mild Legg's Sheer Energy,
Queen Plus size might be suitable for our MEN and taller women. 180-225 lb, height up to 5'11".

And after you get used to that, snipping waistbands as necessary, upgrade to  20-30 mm Hg Compression. Some call thatSurgical Support other call it Firm, so read the numbers carefully.

Go back to a lower strength if that is too much, or wear for shorter periods until get more used to it. Maybe you'll only need it for being out and upright or doing special tasks around the house.

Dr Othro has both 15-20 mm Hg and 20-30 mm Hg men's support socks and Women's 15-20 mm Hg.
Doc Ortho Socks

Good luck.

Letter of Medical Necessity for Tax deduction

With a letter of medical necessity from your doctor, support products are tax deductible or can be submitted to health care flex spending accounts. Help your doctor by drafting such a letter of medical necessity. All the doc has to do if he/she agrees then is photocopy it onto letterhead, sign and give it to you during your visit or by mail. If you make it easy for people to help you, you get more help. Even though you are the sick one, you are still the one who knows most and best what specifically you need and are willing and able to do.

Here's a sample letter:

"My patient, __________, who suffers from Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (code 780.71) and poor circulation to the point of pre-syncope (780.2), benefits greatly from wearing firm and surgical weight, waist high support stockings. I consider them a medical necessity for her to wear when attempting to get to medical appointments, to shop, and to wear around the house so her own self care is improved.  Sincerely,

To search on ICD-9 Diagnostic Codes:
Check your medical receipts to know what codes are being used to describe your symptoms.

Sources / products
4/2008 Prices
Light Compression Ultra Sheer: 9-12 mm Hg  - $22
Light Compression  Sheer: 15-20 mm Hg  - $33
Moderate Compression Moderate: 20-30 m Hg  - $60  (S, M, L, XL, and Queen; Barely Beige, Black)
Also carries support socks.

Ames Walker
A large array of graduated support hosiery products. Distributes own lines of support hosiery, RxFIT Brand and Ames Walker Brands, and they are authorized dealers for Jobst, Juzo, Medi, Sigvaris, and Venosan Brands. Specialists in compression support and diabetic hosiery. Carry 8-15, 15-20, 20-30, 30-40, and 40-50 mm Hg compression.

One great place we USED to be able to get a higher dose of support hose (25-30 mm Hg) for the best price ($20 a pair in 2005) was AARP's Health Essentials Catalog (800) 456-2277. You didn't need to be 55 or a member to order. Perhaps one day, those hose will reappear on the market. Currently, AARP Health Pharmacy Products & Services is now "From Walgreens" and the offerings are moderate and lightweight hose and body shapers.

The main Walgreens online store offers these and others:
Truform (10-20 mm Hg;  Xtra Tall, Petite, Queen, Queen Plus sizes available; more colors; $21-24), 
Jobst - Mild ($21, plus available)
             Moderate ($53)
             Firm ($94, S, M, L, XL, Ivory, Black, Navy, Silky Beige)
L'eggs - Sheer Energy ($4, very mild, several colors)

Another alternative to support hose MIGHT be a TUMMY TRIMMER / shaper type garment but it might not let you slouch as much as need to.  Yes - slouching is a compensating behavior if have low blood volume or  poor circulation. Being okay with one's need to recline or slouch can get you through some rough times!
has the Capri Shaper and also carries the mild support hose L'eggs Sheer Energy
and Hanes Alive! They often sell imperfects at cheaper prices.
Hanes® Body Enhancers® No Hose® Firm Control Capri Shaper 1-Pk   $6.99

Best Buy Health Care                            (added Jan 2009)
Compression Level I 20-30 mmHg,  knee-highs only 13.99 pr  (Black, Beige)

Added 2021
Rejuva Health: Socks, Panyhose, more. Designs. Compression 15-40 mmHg.
Vim & Vigr: Compression Legwear.
SB Sox Lite Compression Sox at Amazon: Fancy looking socks.

Member Letters about Support Hose

I got a pair of the Hanes [body] enhancers Capri [shapers] and short length support hose and for the first time in 10 years have not had a horrific headache and my legs weren't achy!  I'm being cautious though, so too soon to tell yet.  Of course my stomach is in shock! I think I'm finally coming to terms with the fact, I don't have a neck injury and it is a circulatory problem.  Hows that for progress.

Your group is the best.   Of course you can share my comments.  I mean it from the bottom of my heart.  I'd be hopeless with out your group.  I've learned so much. - Julie (Posted to group 6/17/04)

Elly -
I've been getting my support hose from Ames-Walker. They are one of the few sites that doesn't require a Physician's script to get support hosiery with compression of 20-30 mm Hg and above. I love their RxFit line - they fit better than Jobst, and cost less. - "VW", 2004

At an MVPS/Dysautonomia and Orthostatic Intolerance meeting, I modeled Hanes' Firm Control Capri Shaper. They really have been helping me as much as support hose ever did, and they are more comfortable. They are available at department stores that carry Hanes and online at their store for slightly imperfects. 
- JnG  (CFS and OI) (2004)
Sizes (Roughly) 
AB (4'11"-5'7",  96 -140 lb),
CD (5'4"-6'0",  120-165 lb),
EF (4'11" -5'7", 140-190 lb)

Have support hose helped you with achy legs, being upright longer, think better? Send us a note about it.

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Updated April 11, 2021