TED Hose vs. Compression Socks: My MS Battle of Function Over Fashion

I will admit that I’ve never been the most fashionable or trendy woman, but I always try to dress nicely and look presentable. Sure, I survived days of teal blue eyeshadow, monogrammed pastel sweaters, and Day-Glo orange accessories, but there never was anything too wild or overly embarrassing.

My style has always focused more on function than fashion.

My MS fashion

At 23 years old, I was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. My disease progressed quickly. I used a variety of mobility aides; going from a cane to a walker and finally becoming a full-time wheelchair user. However, through all of these mobility transitions, my functional fashion sense was incredibly valuable.

My simple style included pants, skirts, or shorts with elastic waistbands, shirts with fewer buttons or those that slipped on over my head, and flats or rubber-soled tennis shoes on my feet. I made my fashion as cute and age-appropriate as possible.

I need to wear what?

However, I struggled with accepting one new doctor-recommended item of clothing shortly after I started using a wheelchair five years into my MS diagnosis. My primary care doctor wanted me to wear TED hose.

Ugh!

Stark, white compression stockings, that I thought were just, “So old ladyish!” I always thought socks complemented and completed an outfit, plus they kept my feet warm. But these thin compression stockings didn’t look warm or fashionable, so how exactly was I going to incorporate them into my wardrobe?

Why should some MS patients wear TED hose?

Hmm...I trusted my primary doctor and still was trying to figure out the mysterious multiple sclerosis landscape, so I looked into TED hose. In case you are wondering, TED is an acronym for Thrombo-Embolic Deterrent. Some of us with MS experience circulation problems due to our decreased mobility or muscle weakness. Wearing compression stockings can help that. Furthermore, TED hose can be prescribed for non-ambulatory patients, and yes, that is me.

Both TED hose and compression socks work by gently applying pressure to the legs and ankles. This pressure helps to improve blood flow between the legs and heart, and, I imagine, improved blood flow may make my feet and legs feel warmer. Plus, the pressure these socks provide works to lessen blood pooling and edema, which can reduce discomfort and swelling and contribute to overall comfort and well-being.1

Learning about compression socks

I spent a lot of years wearing pasty white TED hose. Yes, I benefitted from squeezing my feet and calves into them, but I always felt self-conscious about how blah they are, especially because I’m fond of wearing black pants. There is nothing subtle or fashionable about black pants and white socks. Really, nothing!

But I carried on until a few years into my black-pants/white-TED-hose trauma when my nurse case manager Jessica asked me, “Have you ever looked for compression socks online?”

“Huh? What?” I wondered aloud.

“Yes, Jen. These thicker compression socks are in much better, much cuter colors! And bonus, they are probably much more affordable.”

Flabbergasted but excited, I asked Jessica if compression socks would suffice for my condition. She squeezed my ankles and said she thought that I most likely was wearing TED hose to address swelling in my legs, but she thought they would work.

How the sock swap has worked for me

So of course, I ordered two pairs of black compression socks – one pair with white hearts and one pair with white polka dots – within minutes after Jessica left my house. They arrived a few days later, and I’ve consistently been wearing them since. Black compression socks and black pants, color coordinated and functional. My happy place!

My now primary doctor always checks for any swelling at my yearly appointments, as do the physical therapy students I receive care from during the school year. My compression socks work for me, and thankfully, I still occasionally wear my white TED hose when my outfit calls for lighter-colored socks or if my feet feel especially swollen. After relying on my wheelchair for a little over 20 years, I, thankfully, am able to judge when my TED hose are needed more than my compression socks.

Have you considered compression socks or TED hose?

I highly value and recommend wearing compression socks and TED hose. If you think they might benefit you, or you have concerns about the blood flow in your legs, start by talking to your primary doctor.

Depending on the type of compression socks or TED hose that are right for you, you may need a doctor’s prescription and/or a professional fitting. Last thing, you can purchase compression socks at pharmacies, medical supply companies, or at online retailers.

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