Stomach compression; it’s my new favourite thing.
I know from the POTS UK website and various Facebook support groups that blood pooling in the feet and lower legs is a big problem for people with POTS, and contributes to the symptoms of poor circulation, light headedness and feeling faint. I also know that specialists often recommend wearing compression socks to help combat the problem. However, they never made any difference to my symptoms.
One of the lesser talked about issues however, is blood pooling in the stomach. I was vaguely aware that it can happen, but I never paid it much attention. Until now.
When I started back at the gym last year, I knew I had to be ultra careful not to make myself relapse. I did my research and I knew the importance of doing exercises sitting or lying down. But the thing was, I couldn’t have done any standing exercises if I tried. My POTS symptoms were too strong and I knew I’d be in a whole world of trouble if I dared to be vertical. At the time, I was wearing my old pre-illness gym leggings, which were calf length and mid-rise at the waist. They were a bit old and tatty, and my arse was about to burst through the seam at the back. Cue, buy a new pair.
I bought the first pair I could find that would do the job. They happened to be a snug fit and have a high-rise waist line. And the results are hands down the best accident that could ever have happened to me.
I had been coping okay in my old pair with seated/lying exercises. I’d been happy with how things were going, and I felt relatively okay – but I also felt that I was only okay because I was sat down. I didn’t feel safe to stand. Until I wore my new leggings.
The first time I wore them, I just felt so … different. For reasons I simply couldn’t fathom at the time, I actually felt like doing a few standing exercises wouldn’t result in autonomic nervous system meltdown. And I was right. I did a few squats and it felt great. The endorphins from being vertical were pretty mega too. I did a couple more exercises and felt like a dog with its head out of a car window, I was so happy – and the only thing I could put it down to was the new leggings. And the only thing that was different about this pair (apart from containing my arse), was the high waist and compressive fit.
I didn’t overdo it. I know the risks associated with exercising with ME and POTS. However, I did go out and buy a pair of actual compression leggings (high waisted and full length), and have been gradually building up my standing activities from then on. And it feels fantastic.
I wanted to share this revelation about stomach compression, not only for other chronically ill people currently trying to exercise – but for everyone who struggles with orthostatic intolerance due to their illness. Because it’s not just about the gym. I’ve worn my leggings out to the shops too, and although I do still get lightheaded eventually – the leggings are definitely buying me more time before it happens.
So, if you have tried compression socks to help with your POTS/orthostatic intolerance and had no luck – then it might be worth trying high-waisted compression leggings that compress the stomach as well as the legs. It won’t cure you, but it might just buy you a few more minutes a day of feeling a bit more ‘normal’