Elastic Bandage Wrap

Minor muscle or joint injuries are often treated with an elastic bandage. The bandage provides support and compression to the injured area. An elastic bandage is a stretchy, rolled bandage. Elastic bandages range in width from 2 to 6 inches. They can be used for a variety of injuries. The bandages are often called ACE bandages, after a common brand name.

If used correctly, elastic bandages help control swelling and ease pain. An elastic bandage is also a good reminder not to overuse the injured area. However, elastic bandages do not provide a lot of support and will not prevent re-injury.

Home care

One hand wrapping an Ace bandage around the other.

To apply an elastic bandage:

  • Check the skin before wrapping the injury. It should be clean, dry, and free of drainage.

  • Start wrapping below the injury and work your way toward the body. For an ankle sprain, start wrapping around the foot and work up toward the calf. This will help control swelling.

  • Overlap the edges of the bandage so it stays snugly in place.

  • Wrap the bandage firmly, but not too tightly. A tight bandage can increase swelling on either end of the bandage. Make sure the bandage is wrinkle free.

  • Leave fingers and toes exposed.

  • Secure ends of the bandage (even self-sticking ones) with clips or tape.

  • Check often to be sure there is good circulation, especially in the fingers and toes. Loosen the bandage if there is local swelling, numbness, tingling, discomfort, coldness, or discoloration (skin pale or bluish in color).

  • Re-wrap the bandage as needed during the day. Re-roll the bandage as you unwind it.

Continue using the elastic bandage until the pain and swelling are gone or as your healthcare provider advises.

If you've been told to ice the area, the ice can be secured in place with the elastic bandage. To make an ice pack, put ice cubes into a plastic bag that seals at the top. Wrap the ice pack with a thin towel to protect the skin. Don't put ice or an ice pack directly on the skin. Ice the area for no more than 20 minutes at a time.  

Follow-up care

Follow up with your healthcare provider, or as advised.

When to get medical advice

Call your healthcare provider for any of the following:

  • Pain and swelling that doesn't get better or that gets worse

  • Trouble moving injured area

  • Skin discoloration, numbness, or tingling that doesn’t go away after bandage is removed

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