A compression wrap is one of the quintessential tools for treating certain types of sports injuries, particularly where swelling is involved. This cost-effective medical device can be used for a range of injuries such as minor sprains, strains, and even torn ligaments or tendons. Compression wraps are therefore a must-have for any first aid kit, whether for camping trips, outdoor activities, or simply to have on hand at home, while they can also be used therapeutically to recondition tired arms or legs after a long day at work.
One frequently asked question regarding compression wraps is whether or not one should keep injured body parts wrapped overnight. Even though compression can provide relief to swollen areas of the body over extended periods of time, the answer to this is not as clear-cut as it may seem, so it is important to know in which circumstances applying the compression wrap overnight is advised, and when this approach is highly discouraged
What are the Common Uses for Compression Wraps?
A compression wrap is basically an elastic bandage that can be wrapped around various injuries and ailments. Unlike a tourniquet, the main objective is not to constrict blood flow, but rather to allow proper blood flow within your veins and arteries by providing the affected area with adequate pressure. This is the main reason why, for example, compression wraps are an ideal treatment for varicose veins.
The pressure created by a snug compression wrap can help to push excess fluids away from an injury. Doing so prevents swelling, especially around areas where there is severe tissue tearing or ruptured blood vessels. Compression wraps can be used around sprained wrists and ankles, as well as swollen arms and legs, or for relieving the pain caused by runner’s knee. These wraps can also be useful when it comes to helping contusions or bruises to heal properly. By putting a compression wrap around the affected area, oxygen and nutrients can be properly distributed towards the damaged tissues, allowing the injury to heal much faster and speeding up the disappearance of discoloration.
Aside from commonly-experienced sprains and tired muscles, you may also be able to benefit from using a compression wrap over open wounds, cuts and grazes. Once again, the pressure created by the compression wrap facilitates more efficient delivery of nutrients and oxygen towards the damaged tissues. This, in theory, speeds up repair and prevents the buildup of fluids around the wound.
How Can You Make Compression More Effective?
• To ensure the effectiveness of compression wraps, proper wrapping techniques must be used
In most instances when applying a compression wrap, you need to anchor the wrap at least 3 inches above and below the affected area before you begin to wrap around the swelling or injury. It is also very important to make sure that the wrap is neither too loose nor too tight. Having the wrap too loose will not provide adequate compression to the injured area. A wrap that is too tight, meanwhile, will constrict blood circulation; this can be very dangerous and hinder your body’s recovery, causing further pain and even tissue damage. As a general rule for checking whether a wrap is too loose or too tight, you should be able to insert your forefinger between your skin and the wrap without any difficulty, but the wrap should still sit snugly against your skin.
The figure-8 wrapping technique is usually recommended for applying a compression wrap. To achieve this, you wrap the bandage around a ligament and pass it across and around the injured area to ensure even pressure. Another good practice when using a compression wrap is to overlap the previous turn by half each time the bandage goes around the injured area, to ensure an equal distribution of compression.
• You can use varying temperatures to make compression wraps even more effective
In most acute injuries, applying ice over a compression wrap is a useful technique that causes broken blood vessels and damaged tissues to contract, arresting the development of swelling. Ice is most effective when used over the first 48 hours after an injury and provides fast-acting pain relief anytime there is redness, swelling, tenderness, or warmth in or around the injured area. However, it is also very important to avoid using ice combined with compression over an extended period, as this can lead to further damage such as frostbite.
On the other hand, placing a hot towel over the compression wrap is most effective for chronic pain and injuries that are two or more days old. While you might think that adding warmth to a new injury would help soothe the pain and provide you with comfort, in reality it can actually worsen the swelling. After 48 hours or more, however, using warmth together with the compression wrap opens up your blood vessels, aiding the drainage of the excess fluids that cause swelling.
• Make use of the full R.I.C.E. approach
To maximize the effects of a compression wrap, it is highly recommended that you follow the Rest, Ice, Compression and Elevation, or R.I.C.E., technique. These four combined steps are considered the gold standard response to sprains, strains, and swelling. Resting your injured limb or the sprained part of your body will help to avoid aggravating it further and causing more swelling and pain. While the injury is being compressed, elevating it will make sure that any excess fluids pooled around your injury are drained more efficiently.
In summary, the proper first aid response to an injury is to make sure that you stop using the affected area to prevent further damage, apply ice to halt the swelling, use a compression wrap to immobilize the area and allow proper healing, and then elevate it right away to stop fluids from accumulating around it. Of course, you should not always rely solely on these first aid methods, especially if there is extensive damage or excruciating pain. In this case, it is best if you go to the emergency room or see a physician immediately after getting first aid treatment, so that you can be given the proper medical attention. Depending on the severity of the injury, this may potentially include pain relievers, therapy, or even surgery.
When Should You Use a Compression Wrap Overnight?
Leaving a compression wrap in place overnight is not typically recommended unless you have been instructed to do so by a physician, but you may want to consider it if the injury is fairly new: in most cases, you can use a compression wrap overnight during the first 24 to 48 hours after sustaining an injury. A few experts say that if the wrap is providing some relief, then leaving the wrap overnight is fine in cases where the patient is experiencing a lot of pain. However, it is critical to ensure that the wrap is not too tight, as leaving it that way overnight can greatly worsen the injury: there have been reported cases of a tight compression wrap that has been left overnight causing impaired blood circulation, increased swelling, and heightened pain by preventing the damaged tissues from repairing themselves properly.
When Should You Not Use a Compression Wrap Overnight?
Daytime use of compression wraps is recommended for minor sprains, strains, and ailments. The immediate application of a compression wrap after an injury will help to stabilize and support the injured area, decreasing the development of swelling. Although swelling is your body’s normal response to injury, uncontrolled swelling can delay healing, so it is always worthwhile to take steps against it. The use of a compression wrap overnight is not recommended for minor injuries or if the swelling begins to subside.
You should also avoid overnight compression wrapping when using it for therapeutic purposes only, such as when treating varicose veins or providing comfort for tired arms and legs. In these situations, the risks involved in leaving a tight bandage around your limb can far outweigh the benefits you are looking to gain from extended compression.
A compression wrap is an essential medical tool that you can use for a wide range of injuries and ailments. You should always have a wrap within reach in your home first aid kit, and you should also bring one with you when venturing outdoors or planning to take part in various sporting activities. Besides helping you to manage sports or outdoor injuries, you can also use a therapeutic compression wrap at home to manage varicose veins or to help recondition and provide proper blood flow to tired limbs.
When dealing with injuries such as sprains, strains, and swelling, you should always follow the R.I.C.E. method to help prevent further damage. When using a compression wrap, it is also highly recommended that you use proper techniques to effectively support circulation. This will enable the delivery of oxygen and nutrients to the affected area and also help to drain the buildup of excess fluids from the swollen area.
Bear in mind that medical practitioners have varying opinions when it comes to using a compression wrap overnight. In general, you should try your best to avoid leaving it overnight unless you have been instructed to do so by a physician. Some medical professionals highly discourage overnight use, because it puts the user at risk from impaired blood flow, as well as increased pain and swelling. Others recommend overnight use only for those experiencing excruciating pain, but stress the importance of ensuring that the wrap is not too tight, so as to avoid the constriction of blood vessels.
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