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Everything You Need to Know About Elastic Bandages

Elastic bandages are real-life savers when it comes to treating yourself at home with minor injuries. The benefits of elastic bandages are numerous; they are effective, affordable, and easy to use.

On what can you use elastic bandages?

Simply put, you can use elastic bandages on sprains and strains to ease the pain. They will help with bringing down the swelling.

Elastic Bandages

What Are Elastic Bandages? A Brief Overview

A compression bandage, also known as an elastic bandage, is a long strip of stretchable cloth that is often used to wrap around sprains and strains. Gentle pressure exerted by these bandages helps ease swelling around sprains and strains, thereby accelerating the healing process.

Elastic bandages come in many sizes. Choosing the right size to fit your need will be crucial since wrong choices can lead to obstructions in blood circulation.

Elastic bandages are also commonly used in RICE procedures; Rest, Ice, Compression and Elevation.

How to Use a Compression Bandage

Knowing how to use a compression bandage will be a handy skill, even if you are not someone prone to regular sprains like a sportsperson. You can use compression bandages to treat the following conditions,

  • Muscle strains
  • Sprained ankles or wrists
  • Swollen limbs
  • Varicose veins
  • Contusions or bruises

Using data found on myhealth.alberta.ca and some other data sources, I have compiled the following summary on how to use a compression bandage.

Choosing the Right Size 

Choosing the right size for your compression bandage will be crucial, as the wrong size will lead to issues such as obstructions in blood circulation. The benefits of elastic bandages will be plenty once you choose the correct size.

Elastic Bandages come in various widths, from two to six inches—the wider the bandage, the lesser the chances of cutting off blood circulation.

  • Bandages with a width of six inches are often used around the chest and thighs.
  • Three or four-inch bandages can be used on adult arms or legs.
  • Two-inch bandages can be used on children's limbs or adult fingers.

How to Wrap a Sprained Ankle

Sprained ankles are one of the most common ailments treated using elastic bandages.

  • To begin with, cut several felt cloth pieces into horseshoe-shaped pieces. Form a pad that is about a centimetre thick.
  • Place the pad (open end up) under the ankle bone to keep the fluid out of the hollow place under your ankle bone.
  • Roll up the elastic bandage if it wasn't rolled up already.
  • Hold the ankle at a 90-degree angle and start with the base of your toes.
  • Wrap the bandage around the ball of your foot. Keep it taut with somewhat of a light pull.
  • After your first wrap, roll the bandage around the arch of your foot. Pull the bandage across from the bottom of the toes over the top of the foot and circle it around the ankle.
  • Now bring the bandage across and down in a figure-eight pattern over the top of the foot and under the arch.
  • When you are wrapping the ankle bone, wrap the bandage around the felt piece, so it stays in place under the ankle bone. 
  • Continue around the ankle and foot in figure eight, moving toward the hell on the bottom and up toward the calf. The wrap should cover the entire foot from the base of the toes to about 10cm above the ankle. 
  • Secure the end with clip fasteners or tape.
Elastic Bandages

How to Wrap a Sprained Wrist

Elastic bandages are a great way of easing pain and reducing swelling around a sprained wrist.

  • Roll up the bandage if it hasn't been already
  • Wrap it around the hand a few times, starting from the base of your fingers.
  • Then wrap it around the hand between your thumb and index finger.
  • Circle the wrist several times, ending about 10 centimetres above the wrist. 
  • Secure the end with clip fasteners or tape.

How to Use Elastic Bandages on Limbs

When wrapping around a limb, such as an arm or a leg, make sure to choose an elastic bandage with a suitable width.

  • If the bandage has not been rolled up already, roll it up.
  • Keep the limb in a neutral position.
  • Start wrapping at the furthest end of the limb.
  • Continue wrapping while overlapping edges by around an inch or so every time you go around.
  • Once finished, secure the ends with clip fasteners or tape.

How Long Should a Bandage Be Kept On

The benefits of elastic bandages can be best experienced when the bandage is applied immediately after a sprain or an injury.

However, how long you keep it on will also make a massive difference.

Elastic bandages are mostly worn for a few days after a sprain or an injury of that sort. If it doesn't cause discomfort, one can wear it for much longer. The most sensible option would be to apply the bandage as soon as the sprain happens and leave it on for 48-72 hours.

Note: It is not advisable to sleep with an elastic bandage on.

If there is a wound associated with the injury, don't leave the bandage on for more than 24-48 hours. Leaving it on for more than that when there's a wound will restrict airflow to the area, which will cause further problems such as inflammation.

How Tight Should a Compression Bandage Be?

A compression bandage should be applied in such a way that it's sufficiently snug and tight but not too tight as to cut off circulation. If you feel numbness around the wrapped area or if the said area is turning bluish in colour, it might be an indication of the lack of circulation to these areas. In such scenarios, take off your compression bandage to resume sufficient circulation to these areas.

The Four-Layer Technique

The four-layer technique is a frequent technique used when it comes to wrapping around sprains and strains. The idea here is to cover the affected area in four layers, each one tighter than the last. Accordingly, the loosest layer would be the first layer, and the tightest would be the fourth. This technique is known to improve blood circulation while carrying out the expected use of elastic bandages.

Comparing Elastic and Non-elastic Bandages 

Elastic and non-elastic bandages have their own merits and benefits.

For the most part, elastic bandages are used when there are no issues with mobilising the affected area. This is because elastic bandages do not obstruct the free movements of joints.

However, if you want to limit the movements of joints in a particular area, non-elastic bandages such as Plaster of Paris can be used. This will restrict movements of the affected area to a significant extent, thereby enabling ailments such as broken bones to heal faster.

Recent studies also suggest that the use of non-elastic bandages is much more beneficial when it comes to the treatment of venous leg ulcers.

Note: It is always better to seek advice from a medical professional before deciding on the type of bandage to use for your ailment.

Elastic Bandages

Related Questions:

What Are Alternatives for Elastic Bandages?

Although the benefits of elastic bandages are plenty, they are not suitable for any and all scenarios. Therefore it is essential to know what to use and when to use.

  • For long-term use, use compression sleeves instead of compression bandages. These are wider pieces of elastic secured with velcro straps. They can be used on body parts such as the chest or thighs to provide much more stable compression.
  • Self-adherent compression wraps are regularly utilised in athletics or following blood donation to provide compression.

Can You Use Compression Bandages on Freshly Inked Tattoos?

Professionals generally advise against the use of compression bandages on freshly-inked tattoos. Since compression bandages cut off much-needed airflow to these areas, they can lead to a wide array of issues, such as inflammation.

Conclusion

The benefits of elastic bandages are many. They can be used to mitigate a wide array of ailments, such as sprains, strains and varicose veins.

However, be mindful of when and how to use these bandages.

Please pay attention to how tightly you wrap it around and how long you keep it on.

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