How to Wrap Your Knee

Wrapping your knee with an elastic bandage can help decrease pain and disability from osteoarthritis by supporting and stabilizing your knee joint. Knee wrapping can also help decrease swelling after an injury by applying slight compression to aid in the return of blood and lymph flow back to the heart. It is important to wrap your knee correctly so that you properly support your knee joint and do not restrict the movement of your knee or reduce circulation.

When to See A Doctor

If you have been experiencing significant knee pain or stiffness that is interfering with your ability to perform everyday tasks—making it uncomfortable to sit, stand, or walk—you should schedule an appointment with your doctor to address your symptoms.

woman applying elastic bandage to knee joint

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When to Wrap Your Knee

Wrapping your knee with an elastic bandage can help alleviate knee pain and instability by providing external support to your knee joint. Wrapping your knee can be most beneficial if you have knee pain from osteoarthritis, which develops over time.

Osteoarthritis

The guidelines from the American Academy of Rheumatology and the Arthritis Foundation for the management of osteoarthritis of the knee strongly recommend the use of tibiofemoral knee braces, especially for people whose arthritis pain limits their ability to walk independently without using an assistive device like a cane. Clinical research supports the beneficial use of knee bracing to help support the knee joint, decrease pain, improve knee stability, and improve overall gait quality.

Using an elastic bandage to wrap your knee is also a convenient way to brace your knee, and the bandage can easily be fitted and adjusted.

If you have arthritis, you can wrap your knee and wear the bandage throughout the day to help with walking and other weight-bearing activities. Remove the bandage at night to reduce arterial compression and prevent skin irritation. Wrapping your knee can also be beneficial in the beginning stages of recovery from an acute injury, if swelling in your knee is present, to aid in pumping blood back to the heart.

Preventing Injuries

While knee bracing is strongly recommended for patients with severe osteoarthritis, there is limited evidence suggesting the benefit of knee bracing or wrapping for other conditions of the knee. Clinical research suggests that knee braces, sleeves, or wraps are not recommended for the treatment of patellofemoral pain, while no specific recommendations exist for or against the use of knee wrapping for ligament, cartilage, or meniscus injuries of the knee.

Wrapping your knee may be useful for providing additional support and stability to your knee to prevent injury, especially with repetitive high-impact or joint-loading activities, such as running, jumping, and heavy squatting. If your knee only hurts during specific activities or if you are using a knee wrap for preventive measures, you should only wrap your knee during exercise and remove the bandage when you are done. 

Knee Wrapping Steps

The best way to wrap your knee is to secure a bandage around your knee with enough tension so that it is secured in place and provides slight compression without restricting movement or blood flow. Most elastic bandages range from 2 to 6 inches in width and are between 4 and 6 feet long to ensure adequate length to wrap around the body several times.

To wrap your knee:

  1. Begin wrapping the bandage around your knee at mid-calf, with the start of the bandage at the outside of your knee.
  2. Moving from the side of your leg in a direction toward the front of your body, wrap the bandage around your leg, circling below your knee two or three times to create an anchor.
  3. Once the anchor of the wrap is secure, pull the bandage up from behind your knee in a diagonal fashion across the outside of your leg toward your inner thigh above your knee. The wrap should not cross over your kneecap at this point.
  4. From here, wrap once around your thigh above your knee cap.
  5. After one circle around your thigh, move the bandage in a diagonal behind your knee from your inner thigh to your outer lower leg beneath your knee and wrap one time around your calf.
  6. After one circle around your calf, wrap the bandage diagonally from behind your knee back up to the front of your thigh again, crossing at a diagonal at the outside of your leg.
  7. Repeat steps 4 to 6 to continue wrapping in a figure-eight pattern. 
  8. When you finish wrapping the entire length of the bandage roll, use a clip to fasten the end of the bandage onto a portion of the knee wrap to secure the bandage in place.

Other Tips 

You should be able to bend your knee without feeling like your range of motion is restricted when wearing a knee wrap. The knee wrap should provide support and stability to your knee joint, but should not make it difficult to move your knee. 

Wrapping the knee too tightly will prevent adequate flexion of your knee needed for functional activities like walking, going up and down stairs, and getting in and out of a chair. If you are unable to bend your knee adequately, your body will often compensate with other movements, which can cause pain or other problems with your hips and lower back.

If you experience any pain, throbbing, or paleness of your leg, these could be signs that you wrapped your knee too tightly. The wrap should feel comfortable and secure, to support your knee while applying a little bit of compression without significant pressure to the surrounding muscles of your knee.

If you are wrapping your knee to help decrease swelling, it is also helpful to apply ice and elevate your leg to decrease pain and inflammation and assist with the return of blood flow to the heart. Resting your knee after an acute injury can also help minimize inflammation and aid in the recovery process.

A Word From Verywell

Wrapping your knee can help provide additional stability and support to your knee to decrease pain from arthritis and help decrease swelling after injury, but it cannot cure or treat knee conditions or injuries alone.

Whether you are looking to reduce pain or recover from an injury, physical therapy can help alleviate your symptoms and improve your ability to use your knee joints by providing you with the appropriate exercises to restore mobility and increase strength in your surrounding leg muscles. If you have been experiencing ongoing symptoms for three months or more, make sure to talk to your doctor to address your symptoms and determine the next steps in your treatment.

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