Tuesday, May 19, 2020

Under Pressure: Water Pressure vs. Compression Garments

One of the most important self care items for treating Lipedema is wearing graduated compression. Your stage of Lipedema will dictate the level of compression you need, which is measured in Millimetres of Mercury (or mmHg). 

For example, I was diagnosed with stage 3 primary Lipedema and secondary Lymphedema (also known as Lipolymphedema). The level of compression I am prescribed is 30-40mmHg.

This means greater pressure (40mmHg) is at the ankle, and as it goes up my leg it gradually lessons in pressure (30mmHg). The reason is to help move the lymph fluid up my leg, because at my stage my lymphatics are compromised, and without the graduated compression my legs would fill up with fluid.

One of the most beneficial activities we can do to help our condition, is aqua fitness. One of the reasons it is so beneficial is because the water acts like natural graduated compression (the deeper the water the more pressure).

Which had me wondering how the water pressure compared to the compression of our garments.

I have tried googling this for the past couple years, I have asked at the pool, and while everyone knew it was good for us, nobody talked about the actual numbers.

Last week I was watching a presentation, and the presenter mentioned being in 3 feet of water was the equivalent of wearing 70 grade compression. Aha! It got me thinking again about finding some answers.

While I could not find a direct water to compression comparison, I could find water pressure to PSI (pound-force per square inch), and I could find PSI to mmHg.

So drum roll please, here is what I found...

Calculating Swimming Pool water pressure compared to level of compression it simulates.

There are many converters online, I checked out a few to make sure the numbers added up, but if you want to get more technical, here you go, courtesy of https://www.sensorsone.com/mmhg-millimetres-mercury-0-deg-c-pressure-unit/...
  • 1 PSI = 6,894.76 pascals (Pa)
  • 1 mmHg = 133.322 pascals (Pa)
  • psi value x 6,894.76 Pa = mmHg value x 133.322 Pa
  • psi value = mmHg value / 51.7149


  1. This is great. I really miss being in water.

  2. Thank you for this. I was diagnosed last year and spend most days in either compression wear, a swimming pool or pneumatic pumps

    1. My pleasure, it helps so much when I can get in the water regularly.