Modern Day Compression Garments

Posted by Jeannette Zucker, PT, DPT, CLT-LANA on February 24, 2017

“Colors, like features, follow the changes of the emotions.” Pablo Picasso

Although my specialty is lymphedema therapy, my treatment philosophy has evolved to guide patients along a healing path so that each individual can actualize their health potential on multiple levels: certainly physical, but also emotional, spiritual, and energetic. That is I do not limit my view and interventions to just the part of the body that is affected with swelling. Rather, I take a couple of steps back and look at the entire patient.

A series of questions automatically goes through my mind whenever I treat: How are patients holding their bodies and what does it reveal about the inner self? What is the patients’ general energy level and how can I empower them to elevate it if it’s low? What is the patients’ general appearance and what does it say about their specific needs?

Achieving maximal volumetric reduction is a relatively easy task for the experienced lymphedema therapist. Helping a patient undergo a transformation requires a little more love and care. But the interventions required to accomplish this need not be herculean in nature. It can be something as simple as adding color into patients’ lives. And by this I mean educating patients on the benefits of choosing color over skin-toned compression garments.

Compression garments are a necessary component to a patient’s home program for managing lymphedema It provides the needed support to the soft tissues so that lymph fluid does not re-accumulate. When the discussion regarding compression garments takes place, frequently patients express that they would like something inconspicuous, something as close to the color of their skin as possible.

In the past, there was no option and “medical-looking”, skin-toned garments were the only choices available. However today there is a spectrum of colors and patterns that patients can choose from. I often tell patients that wearing the skin-toned garments often produces the undesired effect of drawing more negative attention to the part of their bodies that they are trying to conceal. People seem to have a keen eye for the attempt to mimic skin when indeed it is not skin. Color, however, has the opposite effect. People perceive colored fabric to be a part of your wardrobe, a fashion piece, something of your choosing.

Time and time again, the feedback that I get from patients is the same. They are grateful that I encouraged them to at least try a colored garment even if they insist on obtaining a skin-colored one. They experience how they elicit different reactions from people depending on which they choose to wear. Going back to Pablo Picasso’s quote, having different colored compression garments affords you the ability to have your outward appearance accurately reflect the different emotions you feel day to day or to better achieve invisibility. My point being that you are in control. You can decide. Color can be the tool that you use to your advantage, a power that you wield as you see fit.

I think that having the ability to choose is an important concept to highlight. Why impose limitations unnecessarily on any aspect of life? If there are options, explore what’s available to you and then you can decide afterwards whether or not it is for you. Alluding to Dr. Seuss, you may actually discover that you like “Green Eggs and Ham”.

Originally published in National Lymphedema Network Lymph e-Channel, October 2013

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