EECP therapy – and wearing fun socks

by Carolyn Thomas  @HeartSisters

Happy Feet!“Do small things with great socks!”

So says Sharon Durbin, a 62-year old recently retired RN and heart patient from Eau Claire, Wisconsin, who has been undergoing a unique, non-invasive, non-drug and effective way to manage the debilitating symptoms of angina caused by coronary microvascular disease and cyclic spasmsThis photo shows Sharon’s view of her feet during the cardiac treatment known as Enhanced External Counterpulsation, or EECP.*  Sharon’s EECP sessions are held daily, and consist of a series of 35 to 50 one-hour appointments.  As Sharon explained recently in her This Old Heart blog article:   

“EECP is an FDA-approved alternative to coronary stents and bypass surgery, promoting the development of collateral coronary arteries. It’s used in patients who are not good candidates for surgery, performed in prominent clinics such as Mayo Clinic, Johns Hopkins, and the Cleveland Clinic.”

Because lying immobilized for an hour every day during this cardiac therapy can be tiresome – and because you’ll likely be staring down at your feet during this time – Sharon recommends wearing your brightest and most fun socks for each appointment.  She adds:

“Socks are THE perfect accessory for EECP!”

Here is just a small sampling of her best:  

Mismatched socks!
Who needs matching socks!?


"And the dreams you dare to dream really do come true."
Rainbow socks — “Somewhere over the rainbow, skies are blue…”


Playful Polka Dot Socks!
Playful polka dot socks!


Happy Socks

Happy Socks!


Toe Socks in Primary Colors 003

Sharon’s favourite Toe Socks – “I feel like I am in grade school again!”


Sharon has a significant family history of heart disease (her father had his first coronary bypass surgery at age 41). She’s living with coronary microvascular disease, cyclic coronary spasms, and has had two stents implanted for blocked coronary arteries. Her ongoing angina is managed through EECP and medication. Until cardiac issues forced her to retire, Sharon loved her job as a registered sonographer at Mayo Clinic Health System in Eau Claire, specializing in obstetrical ultrasound testing.

So what’s with those socks?

She explains that some time ago, she received several pairs of fun socks as gifts from family and friends, specifically to be worn during her EECP sessions. Socks, she has now decided, really are “the voice of the heart”, describing how her fun socks affect her treatment:

“I hear and feel the love and compassion from friends and family in a concrete way – and I feel it throughout the entire session of EECP.”

*  And here’s how Sharon describes her daily one-hour EECP treatment routine:

“I know the process well.  After I stretch into a pair of navy blue leggings (and feeling ever so vulnerable) daily, I will rest upon a padded exam table.  The nurse then places electrodes on my chest and wraps pneumatic compression cuffs around my calves, thighs and buttocks.  These cuffs are attached to air hoses that connect to valves that inflate and deflate the cuffs based upon my heart rate.

“I hear the humming and thumping and feel tightness and pressure that increases and decreases depending on the irregularity of my heart beat on any particular day. 

“EECP has improved my quality of life – and gives me hope.  It takes commitment and willingness to complete the process – of that, I have no doubt. Studies have shown the process stimulates the formation of collateral blood vessels in the heart by stimulating the release of nitric oxide.  Collateral arteries are small blood vessels that open and create a detour for blood to flow around blockages in major arteries.

“Following the hour-long procedure, I head into Cardiac Rehab for a monitored exercise session.  This is the route to go for me right now, for these reasons:

  • no invasive procedures required
  • little risk
  • minimally time-consuming
  • painless
  • performed on an outpatient basis
  • low cost

“AND… I know it will work.  I will have less angina and take nitro less frequently in the end. The success rates of clinics that I researched range from 80 to 90 percent.”

  For more on how Enhanced External Counterpulsation (EECP) works to manage angina symptoms, visit the Cleveland Clinic site.

  For more on TENS therapy, another form of non-invasive, non-drug treatment for coronary microvascular disease, read My Love-Hate Relationship With My Little Black Box.

See also:


Q: What do you make of EECP (and Sharon’s fun socks?)

14 thoughts on “EECP therapy – and wearing fun socks

  1. Love the socks!
    I have a question though for everyone reading this. My right foot always falls completely asleep at about the 25 minute mark.
    Does this happen to anyone else?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I love those socks too, Dawn! I can’t answer your question about your right foot falling asleep (ask your EECP tech next time?) I did look into research studies that have been done on this treatment to see if any reported your particular side effect, but found only general statements (e.g. the number of patients who dropped out of the study early because of leg pain).

      Unfortunately, the other thing I found was this: many studies on EECP for heart patients are rated “very poor” quality by other medical researchers. For example: a small number of selected participants, no control group to compare results to, only one-week of follow-up, etc. One study on the use of EECP in patients with heart failure (HF), for example concluded that “There was a significant difference in the rate of exacerbation of HF between those who did not complete treatment and had PREVIOUS HF and those who had NO HF.” Reviewers responded: “It is unclear why the authors compared exacerbation of HF in patients with HF versus patients with NO HF.” Good grief! That’s apples and oranges! How did this study ever get accepted for publication by any medical journal in the first place?!

      Despite those inconclusive examples, a number of studies did report positive outcomes like significant improvements in the EECP groups at 12 month-follow ups for quality of life markers like “bodily pain”, “social functioning” and “cardiac specific health functioning” – most with reported decrease in the need for taking nitro (that’s my own personal test, too: when my doctor asks about my own refractory angina symptoms since my last visit, we talk about how many times a week on average I need to use my nitro spray. Very unscientific but it keeps us both on track).

      What is clear after reviewing several studies is that more studies ( i.e. good quality studies!) are required.

      Take care, stay safe out there. . .


      1. YES! Occasionally my foot would fall asleep during ECCP —- most annoying and bothersome when I am trying to remain as nonchalant as possible during the procedure. The nurse worked at making me comfortable as we attempted to figure out the WHY of the situation. She would adjust the cuff and straps, which did help. She mentioned that she never had a patient with that problem before, so it is good to know that now I am not the only one!

        Although ECCP is unconventional and not used as a first choice for medical care, it has been the course of action that has proven successful for me. I wish all my fellow Heart Sisters excellent heart health care and ease in making the choice that is right for them.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Hi Sharon! Thanks so much for weighing in here in response to Dawn’s question. Adjusting cuffs and straps makes sense, doesn’t it? – since the usual reason behind any body part “falling asleep” tends to be sustained pressure that causes the nerves around that body part to become compressed.

          ECCP is unconventional but – as we both know – if unconventional treatments help to address important quality of life issues for patients, those are the ones we will turn to when drugs or invasive medical procedures don’t help.

          Take care, stay safe out there. . . ♥


  2. Dear Carolyn, You may not believe me (but then again I don’t lie) but I have been looking for fun socks for the past 4 weeks.

    I used to have many pairs but that was a long time ago. i can’t find any socks now. The only ones I have left are dog socks and cookie and milk socks. Perhaps you can ask her what her source is and send to me? You know only Peachy Keen Jr. would ask this. Interestingly, when I used to wear them, they made me happier.

    Love, Laurie

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Funny you should mention sock shopping, Laurie. On the first Friday of each month, my weight-training class has a Crazy Socks Day, so I too have had to go in search of fun socks to wear. And I agree – it’s hard not to smile when you look down at fun socks-clad feet . . . 🙂


    2. Response from the ‘wearer of the socks’: My source for the socks are the BEST friends and family anyone could have! I am SO blessed. What would we do without them and their support and understanding?

      I just finished my 29th treatment today and have 21 more to go. I am happy to report I have been angina-free for a week! EECP is great! I am interested in others who have gone through EECP. My legs and feet fall totally asleep…. Anyone else?

      How do you feel about the discomfort of the cuffs and the pumping?

      Thanks for the fun sock comments as it makes me love my socks even more!

      Blessings to all and thanks again, Carolyn for re-posting. I so admire who you are and what you do for us all.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I’m so glad you dropped by to leave a comment, Sharon! And I hope we’ll also hear from others who have experienced EECP, too. Thanks so much for your permission to tell your story here.

        I agree – getting fun socks from friends and family is even better than shopping for them yourself. This could be a good idea for Christmas stocking stuffers this year, right?


    3. Try searching for LittleMissMatched, as they primarily sell online. If you like Sharon’s socks, you’ll like these. I love their socks myself, and they have been my go-to gift for many years.

      Liked by 1 person

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