Compression wraps — also called compression bandages — are used for many different injuries or ailments. They’re a common staple in first aid procedures and often found in first aid kits. They’re typically inexpensive and can be purchased from the drugstore or online.

Compression bandages are used to apply pressure to a specific area or injury. They help minimize swelling by keeping fluids from gathering at the injury site.

Compression can also be applied through the use of compression sleeves, but these are usually used for long term pain or blood circulation management.

Common conditions where compression wrapping is used include:

If you sprain your ankle, it’s likely that the doctor will tell you to wrap it to minimize swelling. If it’s a more severe sprain, you may require additional stable support. If your sprain is minor, a compression wrap alone will often do the trick.

Here are the steps for wrapping your ankle:

  1. Hold your ankle at a 90-degree angle. Start by wrapping around the ball of your foot and arch twice.
  2. With the bandage at the top of your foot, circle the bandage around your ankle and cross back over to the opposite side of your foot.
  3. Do this in a figure-eight pattern, wrapping around the arch of the foot after each pass around the ankle.
  4. When you cover your ankle, secure the end of the bandage somewhere that won’t bother your skin.
  5. Make sure to keep the wrap taut, but not too tight.

If you injure your wrist in a fall or accident, you may need to wrap it to help with the swelling and to speed up healing. A minor wrist sprain can often be treated with compression wrapping, but if you have severe pain in your wrist, seek medical attention.

Here are the steps for wrapping your wrist:

  1. Wrap the bandage around your wrist once, starting at the pinky side of your hand and with your hand facing down.
  2. Pull the bandage to your thumb side and wrap around your palm once.
  3. Cross the bandage back down to your wrist and wrap again around the wrist.
  4. Reverse your wrap to the pinky side of the hand and around the palm.
  5. Wrap around the wrist again.
  6. Use the rest of the wrap to stabilize the wrist. Make sure that you don’t wrap your wrist too tightly. If your fingers begin to tingle or go numb, you should remove the bandage and rewrap.

Depending on your injury, you may or may not want to use a compression wrap. If you’re recovering from knee surgery, your surgeon may require you to use compression wraps to help the healing process.

The technique will be different for different types of injuries to the knee, shin, and thigh area. Be sure to consult your doctor for proper techniques so you don’t cut off circulation or cause your condition to further deteriorate.

If you have a minor sprain or strain, you may turn to compression wrapping to help alleviate swelling. Keep in mind that elastic bandages are for compression and provide minimal support.

Keep a close eye on your wrapped injury to make sure that the compression wrap isn’t cutting off circulation to your foot, hand, or any other part of your body.

If you’re unsure about how to wrap your injury, consult a doctor, athletic trainer, or other reputable source.