“Do you wear compression at the pool or beach?”*
But, I’ll admit that before being married I never wore a compression stocking while at the pool or going to the beach. During that time I was ashamed and really embarrassed by my lymphedema, and I did whatever I could to hide it. Consequently, my leg would swell quite a bit when I would spend time by the water. Eventually I started avoiding water sports and activities all together which unfortunately excluded me from most social events in Arizona and many family trips to the beach. Eventually I think I convinced myself that I didn’t like going to the pool, lake or beach at all; but in actuality I really did miss it.
Jordan, my husband, was the one who challenged my belief that I couldn’t manage my lymphedema and participate in water activities. He absolutely loves everything to do with water and wanted me to enjoy it with him. With his urging, I went to Google searching for compression and management solutions for lymphedema patients who still wanted to enjoy life at the beach. Somehow, in my search, I came across the most amazing athlete and lymphedema patient I have ever seen. Her name is Deborah Cordner Carsen and she won the 2012 Crossfit Games – Spirit of the Games Award. Take a moment and watch this video and I promise you will be inspired.
As I watched her come out of the ocean with her compression stocking on after completing the swimming portion of her triathlon, I couldn’t help but be inspired to follow her example. Besides gaining a desire to push myself physically, I became inspired to also challenge myself mentally. I decided to start by being less ashamed and more proud of my lymphedema. After that decision, allowing myself to wear compression at the pool, lake or beach wasn’t really a big deal anymore.
In my search, I couldn’t really find compression stockings that were specifically made for the water or the beach, so I simply purchased regular circular-knit stockings that I designated exclusively for hanging out around the pool, lake, or beach, and that I didn’t mind destroying. (Using your old compression garments would also be a good idea.) These black stockings pictured above have held up well for me these past couple of years, however the sand at the beach has worn tiny holes in the heels. Here is a link to stockings that I purchased:
Wearing compression around water definitely draws looks and attention from others, and I have had quite a few people come up and ask me what the stocking is for. Truly and honestly though, I don’t mind the looks and questions. I look at it as an opportunity to raise some lymphedema awareness 😉 Another perk to wearing compression is I have felt more relief to finally be able to enjoy going to the beach again. Wearing compression has allowed me to be able to chase my little girl around and enjoy the time I have with my family, rather than feeling anxious about my leg.
*This question above should not be confused with “Do I need to wear compression while swimming?” If you are planning on swimming and not being out of the water very much (i.e. swimming for exercise) there is most likely no need to wear compression. However, pay attention to how your lymphedema responds to swimming without compression. Below is an excerpt of some guidance that LymphNotes.com gives to lymphedema patients about water exercise and activities. The full article can be found here.
WEARING COMPRESSION GARMENTS DURING WATER ACTIVITIES
The hydrostatic pressure of water replaces the need for wearing a compression garment as long as the affected limb is under the water most of the time.
Some therapists recommend wearing a compression sleeve if the affected arm is out of the water during most of the exercise session.
If a sleeve is necessary, wear an old one because the chlorine in pool water is destructive to the garment.