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Wide sleeves and compression

The Challenges of Arm, Compression

Arm lymphoedema can be diagnosed with both Primary and Secondary Lymphoedema and L-W-O Community support group members may be affected in one arm but several of our members do have lymphoedema in both arms. As with all lymphoedema, self-care is crucial so, daily routines of skincare, compression, healthy lifestyle, and movement are crucial.

Arm compression image

Daily Wearing of Compression


The daily wearing of compression is essential to those living with arm lymphoedema, the compression works by putting pressure on the tissue to stop fluid-build up, support the muscles and help the lymph fluid drain from the affected area. While our members fully understand the importance of wearing compression it does create huge challenges for them.

Sleeves and Compression


Looking at sleeves with the emphasis on how these fit over compression garments. Every day off the shelf clothes do not take into consideration the wearing of compression sleeves or swollen arms.  The image clearly shows the difference in the size of the limb of the swollen arm.  Add compression to the swollen limb and the arm size will reduce and be controlled. However, it will be more difficult to find a clothes sleeve to fit over the swollen arm with compression. While the unaffected arm the clothes sleeve will be too big.

Elevation or Positioning

Piece to be written

L-W-O members thoughts


“I do not wear any tops with elasticated cuffs, whether they are wrist or upper arm length. I cut inner elastic to loosen the style to keep my body comfortable, without the tightness”.

Another member posted she would wear (7) and added:

“I do not wear tops with sleeves that are too tight, too short and have cuffs. I wear tops with sleeves that are very wide and extremely rare to find”.

On a personal level I don’t wear arm compression as I don’t have lymphoedema in my arm. Since my lymphoedema diagnosis I too have had issues with clothes, even standard sized clothes can vary in size depending on the cut and manufacturer. I was fortunate enough to find a good seamstress who totally understood how I felt and adapted the clothes I wanted to wear without costing me a fortune.

Member Engagement

In this section I will be looking at sleeves with the emphasis on how these fit over compression garments. Every day off the shelf clothes do not take into consideration the wearing of compression sleeves or swollen arms.

During my research I was fascinated to come across the ‘Story of Sleeves’ which details the history of sleeves and how they have changed over centuries.  The diagram shows all the different types of sleeves that we are likely to wear in the 21st century.  When this was shown to our members, they were able to tell me exactly which sleeves they prefer, and the sleeves that don’t work for them and why they are not compatible with compression.

The biggest complaint our members have is that when buying clothes when wearing a compression sleeve, they need to buy clothes that are one to two sizes larger than normal.  This is not good for their self-esteem and has a serious effect on mental health.


They find material used in clothes either cause static between the clothes sleeve, and the compression sleeve. Often a long sleeve will not sit right over the compression sleeve and as one member put it “There is a lot of tugging to get clothes sleeve over compression”. This is both exhausting and sometimes painful. Clothes sleeves over compression may look creased. Therefore sleeve (1) would be too tight and long t-shirt sleeves (6) would not sit flat over compression making it uncomfortable to wear and very tight.

Leg of Mutton sleeves (10) would be too tight for an arm with lymphoedema and too big for the unaffected arm.

There was a consensus that Cap Sleeves (2) look awful with compression because with a cap sleeve there is an unsightly gap between the sleeve and the compression sleeve.

While not in the above image sweatshirt sleeves don’t have enough give in them. Our members also tend to avoid anything with a cuff, buttoned cuff and do not like elasticated cuffs which can be painful over a compression sleeve and leave indentations on the unaffected arm.

The remaining sleeves would be suitable for someone wearing compression. Bat wing sleeves where a favourite with some of our members.  We do have knitters in our group and hand knitted jumpers are a preference for those members.

The Story of Sleeves

Image shows 12 types of sleeves some of the sleeves would not be compatible with arm compression


To be written

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