Compression Stockings or Lymphedema Wraps - What is the difference?

Graduated compression hosiery and lymphedema wraps are both used in the management of lymphedema, a condition characterized by the accumulation of lymph fluid and swelling in certain parts of the body. However, they serve different purposes and are applied in different ways.


Graduated Compression Hosiery:

  • Purpose: Graduated compression hosiery is designed to provide graduated pressure, meaning it is tighter at the extremities and gradually decreases in pressure as it moves up the limb. This gentle squeeze helps to move blood and lymphatic fluid up your legs, preventing fluid from pooling and reducing swelling.
  • Application: Compression stockings, socks, or sleeves are commonly used for lower extremity lymphedema. They are worn throughout the day and are available in various compression levels, with higher compression indicated for more severe cases.

Lymphedema Wraps:

  • Purpose: Lymphedema wraps, on the other hand, are used to provide more targeted and adjustable compression. They are often used as part of complete decongestive therapy (CDT), which is a comprehensive approach to managing lymphedema. These wraps are particularly helpful when dealing with irregularly shaped body parts.
  • Application: Lymphedema wraps are applied in a specific layering technique to create a gradient of pressure. This encourages the movement of lymphatic fluid and helps reduce swelling. Wraps can be adjusted to accommodate changes in limb size.

Key Differences:

  • Graduated compression hosiery provides a consistent compression level along the limb, while lymphedema wraps allow for customizable and variable compression.
  • Hosiery is generally easier to put on and take off, making it more convenient for daily use. Wraps may require more skill in application and adjustment.
  • Lymphedema wraps are often used in conjunction with other components of complete decongestive therapy, such as manual lymph drainage and exercise.

It's important to note that the choice between graduated compression hosiery and lymphedema wraps depends on factors such as the severity and location of lymphedema, patient comfort, and the overall treatment plan prescribed by healthcare professionals. Individuals with lymphedema should consult with their healthcare provider to determine the most suitable approach for their specific condition.

About the Author

Kaki Zell - Vice President of Sales, Marketing, eCommerce at Legs-4-Life LLC Kaki holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Administration and Management from Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University. She’s been working in the medical device industry for over 11 years and currently serves on the Board of Directors for the Greensboro Science Center.  

Written January 2024



MedlinePlus. “Compression. Stockings” "Compression Wraps and Bandages for Lymphedema."


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