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How to Use an Elastic Bandage

Medically reviewed by Last updated on Oct 1, 2023.

Why do I need an elastic bandage?

An elastic bandage puts gentle, even pressure on the tissue around an injury to decrease pain and swelling. It also gives support to an injured area. You may need an elastic bandage for any of the following reasons:

  • To improve blood flow to a limb
  • To wrap around a limb splint during healing
  • To hold bandages in place
  • To hold cold or hot packs in place

How do I use an elastic bandage?

Elastic bandages come in many different sizes and lengths. They may come with metal clips or tape to fasten it in place. Ask your healthcare provider to show you how to wrap the bandage. The following steps will help you wrap an elastic bandage around your ankle. You can also wrap an elastic bandage around your knee, wrist, or elbow.

  • Hold the bandage so that the start of the roll is facing up.
  • Start the loose end of the bandage on the top of your foot beneath your toes. Leave your toes out of the bandage.
  • Hold the loose end of the bandage in place with one hand. With the other hand, wrap the bandage in a circle twice around your foot. Always wrap the bandage from outside to inside.
  • After the top of your foot has been wrapped twice, move your hand to your heel.
  • Continue to wrap the bandage in a spiral pattern, like a figure 8. Leave your heel uncovered. Overlap the elastic bandage by ½ of its width each time you go around.
    • Cross the bandage over your foot, moving upward, and pass it behind your ankle.
    • Move the bandage down and cross it over the top of your foot.
    • Wrap the bandage under your foot. Repeat this one more time.
  • Pass the bandage around your calf and wrap it in upward circles toward your knee. Stop wrapping below your knee. You do not need to wrap the bandage down your calf again.
  • Fasten the end to the rest of the bandage. Do not use metal clips where your skin folds or creases, such as behind your knee.

What are some safety and comfort tips?

  • Do not wrap the bandage too tight because it may cut off blood flow.
  • Take off the bandage at least 2 times a day. Leave it off for a few minutes then wrap it again. Ask your healthcare provider if you should leave the bandage off at night.
  • Remove the bandage if you have numbness or tingling or your limb turns cold or pale. Gently rub the area. Rewrap the bandage when the area feels better.
  • Wash the bandage each day or when it gets limp. Keep an extra elastic bandage in case the one you are wearing gets wet or dirty.

When should I contact my healthcare provider?

  • You have pain or cramping in the limb where the bandage is wrapped.
  • You have tingling or numbness that does not go away after you remove the bandage.
  • Your hand or foot stays cold or pale after you remove the bandage.
  • You see redness that was not there when the bandage was first applied.
  • You have questions or concerns about how to use an elastic bandage.

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your healthcare providers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment. The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

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Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.