How to Use a Compression Bandage

Last Updated on July 11, 2023.
How to Use a Compression Bandage

Compression bandages, or compression wrapping, are used for a myriad of ailments. If you’ve been dealing with strains, sprains, swelling, bruising, or cuts, compression bandages are a good option for helping you recover. Knowing how to use a compression bandage correctly can help you heal faster and virtually pain-free.

Applicable Medical Conditions

There are certain circumstances you need a compression bandage around a wounded area. The most common ailments covered with pressure or compression bandage are lacerations and sprains or strains.

The common joints that are most benefited by compression are the ankles, knees, wrists, and elbows. People who suffer from leg ulcers or varicose veins use compression to rectify circulation problems in the body. And these bandages are especially useful in the backcountry.

If you’re wondering how to use a compression bandage, here are notes about the particular medical conditions that benefit from this type of tight bandaging.

Ankle or wrist sprain 

A ligament is the band of tissue that connects your bones to your bones. If the ligaments in your ankle or wrist joints stretch too much or tear, you’ve sprained that joint. Compression can help stabilize any movement, allowing the ligaments to heal.


Tendons, the fibrous corded material that attaches your muscles to your bones, can also be harmed by overexertion. An injury to your tendons is called a strain. Compression is an excellent remedy, especially in the first 24 to 48 hours


Edema is when your limbs swell with excess fluid, most commonly the hands and feet. Compression can help push the fluids back up to the upper regions of your body, reducing swelling. You have to be careful not to use too much compression, as this can lead to serious circulation issues.

Leg or arm ulcers

When the skin on one of your limbs gets broken, it leaves the tissue underneath susceptible to infection. Ulcers are generally classified as seeping or weeping wounds, which use many white blood cells, creating pus. 

Although you keep a snug compressing dressing on an ulcer to help it heal faster. The tight bandages hold a gauze pad in place that absorbs body fluids. Compression bandages over ulcers also help alleviate the consistently high pressure in the veins.


Darker blue or purple patches bloom on your skin when you bump or fall as blood from deeper tissues is pulled toward the surface to heal the wound. Compression bandages over serious bruises can help lessen the bruise’s appearance and duration


laceration is an injury in which the skin is broken, and bleeding and pain at the site are common. A compression bandage holds absorbent bandages tightly against the wound, decreasing the blood flow. 

To effectively use a compression bandage on a laceration, follow these simple steps – put the bandage part over the wound, tie the tails as tight as possible, and put direct pressure on the wound until the bleeding stops.

All these conditions benefit from compression to reduce swelling and stemming blood loss. Compression dressings also protect your wound from dirt and infection, prevent heat loss, and safeguard it from additional trauma.

Why Compression Helps

A compression bandage is a long stretchy bandage that you can wrap around parts of your arms or legs to help stem bleeding or stabilize a sprain or strain. With its flexible material, compression keeps the blood vessels from overly dilating, which causes swelling or excess bleeding.

Swelling and bleeding are your body’s way of protecting itself when wounded; white blood cells flood into the injured area to help start healing the wound, which in turn causes swelling or excessive blood loss.

How to Best Use Compression Bandaging

There are guidelines for using pressure dressing on circulatory issues. Since this handy medical tool is used to assuage many conditions, particular methods are tailored to each need.

  • Strains and sprains – Don’t use a compression bandage when you’re icing your injured areas, as this can cause frostbite. Also, beware of wrapping your injured joint too tightly; you don’t want to cut off circulation. You should also loosen your wrapping before you go to sleep, as circulation slackens when you’re unconscious.
  • Lacerations – If the wound isn’t too severe and it’s producing a decreasing amount of blood, clean it carefully and wrap, covering the wound site with clean gauze. Apply extra tight compression bandages to stem the blood flow and tie the bandage off, keeping the limb elevated.

If you’re camping or hunting and an outdoor emergency occurs, you may be wondering how to use a compression bandage. In backcountry situations especially, these variants may be useful. 

Different Types of Compression Dressing

Additives to compression bandages make them even more helpful. The addition of a plastic frame or analgesic agents makes the standard compression bandage that much better. 

Israeli bandage

Created in the Israeli army by a medic (hence the nickname), this device uses a plastic frame called the pressure bar. This bar is put over the wound, and then the bandage is wrapped over it, reversed, and wrapped more. When pulled tightly, the bandage compresses the bar into the wound, lessening further vessel leakage.

Hemostatic materials

These agents encourage clotting and come as a granular substance. They used to be problematic because the formula was exothermic (it produced excess heat). The formulas have since been perfected, and these agents can be lifesavers in a wilderness survival scenario.

If you’re someone who often finds themselves cut off from the civilized world, you should always have an emergency medical kit on you that includes compression bandages. For sprains, strains, lacerations, and head injuries, compression dressing is your number one survival tool.

Field Trauma Tips

Although you can find compression bandages in most first aid kits, the basic definition of a compression bandage is something that covers your wound and applies pressure to the area. 

If you are already using your compression bandage for another wound or don’t have one, you can make do with any fabric that has the right amount of give to it. A bandana or item of clothing can bind your wound, stabilize motion in an injured joint, or create a splint.

If you’re lucky enough to have brought along your compression bandages, you can make a sturdy splint in no time. Using straight sticks as the sides of the splint (or an ice ax or quiver) immobilize the joint, especially the range of motion that would hurt the most, and keep the splints aligned with a tightly wrapped compression bandage.

The Take-home Message

Gun ownership is challenging to reconcile with having an online presence. The convenience afforded to us by social media platforms makes it too easy to overshare.

Adopting sensible online privacy habits and being mindful of what you post on the internet is not just a matter of not being seen by the wrong people; it’s also one way to defend your rights: the right to keep and bear arms and the right to privacy.

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