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What is a Compression Wrap?

By Licia Morrow
Updated Feb 21, 2024
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A compression wrap is used as therapy for a wide variety of conditions including sprains, varicose veins, sports injuries, and edema. Compression therapy, as applied to sports injuries or sprains, assists in the reduction of swelling, helping the area to heal faster and avoid long-term problems. An ankle sprain is the most common type of injury that requires a compression wrap.

A local drugstore can provide a wide selection for a customer searching for a compression wrap. Some compression wraps are long, flexible bandages that can be wrapped around the sprained or swollen area. Others are pre-fabricated wraps that are designed for specific body parts such as shoulder, wrist, ankle, or knee. These are usually made of nylon and can slip over the affected area or be fasted with Velcro®. For added support, many types come with increased bracing in the form of plastic or metal molding, or a separate brace can be added to a bandage before manually wrapping the affected area.

When used in conjunction with rest, ice, and elevation, compression of a swollen area can help to heal the injury more quickly by putting pressure on surface veins and keeping blood and fluid from pooling and expanding in the area. A compression wrap, with or without protective bracing, does not always completely safeguard the area from further damage. It is important to prevent re-injury by properly resting the area, icing the area for up to 20 minutes at a time, and elevating the area above the heart to ensure proper blood flow.

Besides a sports injury or sprain, there are several conditions which improve with adequate compression therapy. Leg ulcers, obesity, edema, varicose veins, and lymphedema can be treated with compression bandages, but also with compression stockings. This type of compression wrap is in the shape of a stocking or sock and can be made of elastane, cotton, or nylon. These types of socks come in a variety of compressions from mild to heavy pressure.

The stocking can be worn to the knee, or in some cases, just up and over the affected area. Most compression socks are used during the day when a patient is upright, or moving around. Anti-embolism hosiery is primarily used to avoid blood clots in patients who are lying prone.

Many common sprains or injuries can be taken care of with a trip to the drugstore and at-home care. In some cases a doctor should be contacted if rest, ice, compression, and elevation do not decrease swelling in a reasonable time frame. Compression hosiery, as opposed to a sports wrap, is usually prescribed by a doctor for more severe conditions.

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Discussion Comments
By donasmrs — On Sep 01, 2014

@dljohn-- Yes, diabetics wear compression socks to improve circulation. It's the same idea behind compression wraps. Actually every diabetic doesn't wear them. The elderly or those with advanced diabetes usually wear them.

Diabetes over time causes damage to the veins and nerves. This is called neuropathy. It leads to poor circulation. So diabetic may have cold legs and feet, as well as symptoms like numbness and tingling. The poor circulation and numbness can make injuries in these areas more dangerous as they don't heal quickly and may not be noticed right away. Wearing compression socks help improve blood circulation and can help keep these areas warm as well.

By ddljohn — On Aug 31, 2014

Diabetics wear compression socks too right? What's the benefit of compression socks for diabetes? Is it for edema?

By turquoise — On Aug 31, 2014

I had bad ankles and I started a new dance class which requires a lot of jumping. I managed to sprain both of my ankles during the first class. I had to wear compression wraps for the rest of the week to help them heal. I still go to the classes but I actually wear the compression wraps to class to protect my ankles. It works because I haven't injured them again.

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