What Is a Compression Wrap?

Medically Reviewed by Sabrina Felson, MD on February 21, 2024
3 min read

A compression wrap is a bandage made of elastic. You may need to use one if you recently had an injury or want to improve your circulation. When wrapped around the affected body part, they put pressure on it to help reduce swelling. 

In some cases, compression wraps may be a long-term solution to health concerns like blood clots and circulation problems.

You might use a compression wrap for:

Ankle injuries. If you sprained your ankle or your foot is swollen, a compression wrap can keep swelling down and boost the healing process. 

Blood flow problems. Compression wraps are mostly used to improve blood flow to your heart. When you have poor circulation, your blood has trouble moving back to your heart from your legs. Compression wraps are great for people who are on their feet a lot or who have blood flow problems.

Compression therapy. If you have problems with your veins or lymphatic system, compression wraps can help. They can treat things like varicose veins and venous leg ulcers. The compression wrap puts pressure on surface veins, which forces blood back into your deep vein system.

Lymphoedema. This condition affects your circulatory system. Compression wraps can help you manage the symptoms and ease swelling or distortion of your skin. 

There are some things to think about before you use a compression wrap. 

Levels of compression. Some wraps come with a set level of compression. You can get a light, moderate, high, or extra-high-performance wrap. Your doctor can help you find the right compression level for your swelling or injury. 

Wrapping your injury. Before putting on the wrap, make sure your bandage is clean. You'll want to rewrap the affected area every few weeks, depending on your injury. As your swelling goes down, you might want to reduce the compression level.

Four-layer technique. This common method involves wrapping the affected body part in four layers of compression wrap. The first layer is the loosest. Each layer gets tighter until you’ve gotten the compression level you need. The four-layer bandage technique is good for healing ulcers and improving blood flow. It’s often used on legs and feet. 

‌Don't wrap too tight. It may take you a while to get used to the feeling of a compression wrap. At first, you may think it’s too tight. Most of your discomfort will happen around your ankle or foot if your wrap is on your leg. You might feel a new pressure on your leg that’s caused by the compression wrap. Continuous pain in your leg may mean your compression wrap is too tight or not the right size. 

If a compression wrap is not properly bandaged, it can cause other problems. A compression wrap that’s too tight or uncomfortable should be rebandaged. Call your doctor if: 

  • You have pain, numbness, or tingling
  • Your toes or fingers turn a different color
  • Your wrap gets wet
  • The wrap is wrinkled or folded
  • The wrap rubs against your skin or moves down 
  • Fluid leaks from the affected area to the outside of the wrap

These things will make wearing your compression wrap uncomfortable and could cause infection. A properly bandaged compression wrap means you’ll heal faster and safer.