How To Wrap A Knee? | Step-By-Step Guide To 4 Effective Ways

Written By on November 20, 2022 — Medically Reviewed By Kris Ceniza (PT)

Written by on November 20, 2022 — Medically Reviewed By: Kris Ceniza (PT)

Wrapping your knee is a safe and effective way to relieve pain and inflammation. It also seems like the easiest thing to do but there are many ways it can be done. To help you out, I wrote step-by-step guides on how to wrap a knee in different ways.

I also included what situations the different techniques are best used for, as well as the things you’re going to need.

I’ll start with simple techniques using the elastic Ace bandage but, if you want to jump into specific sections, you can tap on the bullets below.

Easy ways to wrap your knee with an elastic bandage

Better known as an Ace bandage, an elastic bandage is the most practical tool you can use to wrap your knee at home. You can buy them everywhere, they’re cheap, easy to use, and reusable. You might even have them at home with you already.

That being said, there are 2 basic ways you can use them: The spiral wrap or the figure of eight.

The spiral wrap

Step by step sequence on how to wrap a knee using the spiral wrap

his technique is the most basic way to wrap your knee. You can use this on virtually any part of your limbs, including your knee joint.

What’s it for?

  • Spiral wraps are meant to assist blood flow back to the heart, thus helping to minimize inflammation and pain. So, it’s also suitable for new knee injuries.
  • Spiral wraps are also great for securing an ice pack around your knee. Make sure to remove the ice after 15-20 minutes and replace the bandage with a dry counterpart.

You’ll need the following:

  • The right bandage size. I recommend 4- or 6-inch bandages for most adults but if you’re doing this for a child or someone petite, the smaller sizes may be more suitable.
  • Locks. Newer Ace bandages come with Velcro but other brands may use metal clips or tape. All that matters is you can secure the knee wraps in place.

Steps:

  1. Sit near the edge of a chair and slightly bend your knee to about 25 degrees. This puts your knee in its resting neutral position which also facilitates the primary stage of the healing process. (1)
  2. Wrap your elastic bandage a couple of times about 1-2 inches below your kneecap. This serves as both your anchor and your starting point.
  3. Continue wrapping the bandage diagonally upward, making a spiral-shaped wrap. Here, you want to make sure that you have an overlap of at least 50% with each layer. Also, try to maintain the same amount of stretch in each wrap.
  4. Finish your wrap above the knee (lower part of your thigh). Cut the excess if there’s more. Don’t wrap the remaining bandage back down.
YouTube video

The figure eight technique

This one’s a tad bit tougher than the spiral wrap but it’s also developed specifically for joints.

What’s it for?

  • Figure eight is a knee-wrapping technique that adds a bit more stability to your knee. So, it’s best used for sprains such as ligamentous and meniscal tears.
  • Alternatively, you can use knee braces with hinged metal brackets on the side. The metal provides more support for your knee joint. I recommend using these during the later parts of recovery when the swelling has fully gone down.

Recommended: The best hinged knee braces on the market

You’ll need the following:

  • A double-length Ace bandage (or other brands). For width, I generally use 4-inch bandages because it’s easier to work with. 6 inches work fine for bigger folk while smaller ones are better for kids.
  • Locks. Again, Velcro, metal clips or tape will work just fine.

How to wrap a knee for support:

  1. Slightly bend your knee to about 25 degrees. This puts your knee in its neutral, loose position where it needs the most support.
  2. Wrap the bandage twice just below your knee. This is your anchor and your starting point. For the sake of uniformity, begin wrapping from the outside part of your lower leg, moving above the shin and towards the middle, then under, and back outside. Repeat.
  3. From the outside of your lower leg, angle the wrap upwards so you pass below your kneecap and towards the inside portion of your upper leg.
  4. Wrap the bandage around this part of your limb one and a half times so you end at the outside portion of your upper leg.
  5. From there, angle the wrap downwards so you pass above your kneecap and towards the inside portion of your lower leg. Here, you’re crossing over the previously angled wrap and forming an 8 around the inside of your knee.
  6. Wrap around once until you’re back around the inside portion of your lower leg.
  7. From here, angle the wrap upwards so you pass directly behind the knee, around the upper outside corner of your kneecap, and onto the inside portion of your upper leg.
  8. Wrap the bandage around your upper leg once until you’re back around the inside.
  9. Angle the wrap downwards so you pass behind the knee and arrive at the outside portion of the joint.
  10. Wrap towards the inside portion of your lower leg, passing around the lower outside corner of your kneecap. This time, you form the 8 on the outside part of your knee.
  11. Lock it up. Wrap around your lower leg at least once and secure the bandage with velcro, clips, or tape.

Needless to say, it’s a complicated wrap to explain but here are the patterns that make it easier to understand:

  • The angled wraps are so you arrive above or below the opposite side of your knee joints.
  • The wrap-arounds are so you can do angled wraps on both sides of your legs.

The result is two 8s around the knee with your patella uncovered. It’s the tension on these 8s that help bolster knee stability.


Knee Force Knee Sleeve

How to wrap your knee using tape

Two of the better-known methods are McConnel Taping (MT) and Kinesio Taping (KT).

According to a study from the International Journal of Sports Physical Therapy, both MT and KT are effective ways to reduce anterior knee pain. This is the kind of pain you feel when you squat or use the stairs. (2)

These two methods are commonly used because about 25% of adults experience some sort of knee discomfort. And, of course, you can do both of these at home.

McConnell method

The McConnell knee taping method is the conventional way to treat knee pain and it also offers almost instant relief.

What’s it for?

  • It helps align your patella to your leg and thigh during movement. This makes it especially useful when your joint hurts during activities that require knee bending such as squatting or taking the stairs.

What you’ll need:

  1. Cover-roll stretch tape (or hypoallergenic tape). This protects you from skin irritation from the more adhesive leukotape.
  2. Leukotape. This tape is responsible for moving and tilting your patella to where it should be.

Steps:

  1. Sit near the edge of a chair with your leg extended and relaxed. You’ll know it’s properly relaxed if you can freely move and tip your patella with your fingers.
  2. Cut a single length of cover-roll and apply the tape from the outer and upper part of your knee cap towards the back of your knee. Make sure you don’t apply any tension and that you cover the upper end of your patella.
  3. Again, using cover-roll, tape over the bony part of your shin (right under the kneecap) towards the back of your knee. No tension.
  4. As the last step using cover-roll, tape over the bony part of your shin towards the outside of your knee. You’ll know when the cover-rolls have been applied properly if you can still comfortably bend your knee.
  5. With your leukotape, tape from the middle of your upper kneecap and towards the back of your knee. Use one hand to pull the tape towards the middle while using your other hand to pull your inner thigh up and out. 
  6. The 2nd strip of leukotape runs from the outside of your upper kneecap and toward the back of your knee. Again, pull on both the tape and your thighs simultaneously. This tilts your patella which, in turn, relieves pressure.
  7. With a 3rd strip of leukotape, tape from the bony part of your shin towards the back of your knee. Do this while simultaneously pulling your kneecap up using your other hand.
  8. The last and final strip of leukotape starts from the bony part of your shin and moves toward the outer part of your knee. Again, simultaneously pull your patella up with your other hand.

Kinesiotaping

Despite making headlines over the past few years, KT has been around since the 1970s.

You might have seen this on weight lifting events or other athletes whenever you turn on the TV. However, by no means is its use limited to sports.

That being said, you can practice putting KT on yourself but I strongly recommend getting it done professionally a couple of times first. This way, you get to see the application first hand and you know exactly how you should feel.

So…

What’s it for?

According to the Journal of Physical Therapy Science, Kinesio taping is generally used in sports to reduce pain while increasing your range of motion and muscle control. The method below is for general knee pain. (3)

But, full disclosure, studies around KT are largely inconclusive. Some people believe it’s all placebo but others also say they’ve benefitted from Kinesio taping. I say it’s at least worth a shot because it’s harmless even if it’s ineffective.

But, as a team of physical therapists, we also believe that it shouldn’t be the primary treatment for anything, be it a chronic or acute injury. It should only be used as a part of a proper exercise or rehab program that improves your control over your joints and muscles.

What you’ll need:

  • Kinesio tape (1 standard I strip and 2 longer I strips). I use Kinesio Tex and KT Tape but other products will work just fine.
  • Scissors (situational). You could buy precut tapes to minimize effort but cutting the tape yourself isn’t that big a deal either. Just use the squares on the backing tape as a guide.

Steps:

  1. Bend your knees to about 90 degrees. You can do this while sitting on a chair with your knees dangling in front of you, or you can sit on the floor with your concerned knee bent to 90.
  2. Take a standard I strip (3 squares), tear the backing tape down the middle to expose the KT, then apply the tape below your kneecap while stretching the tape to about 75-100%. Apply the last inch or so of both ends of the tape without any stretch. Also, make sure the ends are right on the inner and outer areas of your knee.
  3. Take the first long I strip (5-6 squares), tear the backing tape off of the first square, then apply the bare, unstretched tape 4-6 inches above your patella. This serves as an anchor point for the remainder of the tape.
  4. Peel the backing tape off of the remaining tape until you get to the last square, stretch the tape to about 25%, then apply the tape towards the inside of your knee. As you cross the joint, increase the stretch to 50% and apply the rest of the tape toward the bony part of your shin.
  5. Peel the backing tape off of the last square and anchor it without applying any tension.
  6. Take the second long I strip, tear the backing tape off of the first square, then anchor the bare, unstretched tape on the same area 4-6 inches above your patella.
  7. Peel the backing tape off of the remaining tape until you get to the last square, stretch the tape to about 25%, then apply it towards the outside of your knee. As you cross the joint, increase the stretch to 50% then apply the remaining tape toward the bony part of your shin.
  8. Peel the backing tape off of the last square and anchor it without applying any tension.
  9. Use the backing tape you just peeled off to rub the KTs on your leg. This activates the adhesive and helps them stick.
YouTube video

FAQs:

Should I wrap my knee if it hurts?

Yes, you can wrap your knee if it hurts. If it’s a new injury or your arthritis pain flaring up, doing a spiral wrap is generally the most suitable course of action. If it’s an older injury to soft tissue, however, the better choice might be using figure 8.

Should I wrap my knee overnight?

Virginia Tech and several other reputable sources say no, you shouldn’t wrap your knee overnight – and I agree. A knee wrap left on for too long (i.e. overnight) can deprive your joint of nutrients and immune cells that it needs to recover. 

Does wrapping your knee help with swelling?

According to research, yes, wrapping your knee can help with swelling and pain. Theoretically, the tension from the wraps helps channel fluid away from the site of injury and back to the heart. The compressed space also discourages these fluids from pooling at the injury, leading to less inflammation. (4)

What are the benefits of wrapping your knee with compression wrap?

The 2 most notable benefits of compression wrapping are that it helps control inflammation and adds a bit more stability to your knees. It’s because of these reasons that compression wraps are used commonly in any new knee injury.

Conclusion

How to wrap a knee injury can be done in many ways but the technique you should be using depends on what you need.

Is it swollen or a fresh injury? Wrap your knee joint using the spiral method. Do your knees keep buckling? The figure 8 method might be your best bet. Do your knees hurt when you climb the stairs? Try McConnell taping. Are you doing this for any sports activity? Maybe kinesiotaping will work for you.

Resources:

  1. “Importance of Open and Closed Packed Positions.” The Student Physical Therapist, 30 Oct. 2015, (link).
  2. Campolo, Marc et al. “A comparison of two taping techniques (kinesio and mcconnell) and their effect on anterior knee pain during functional activities.” International journal of sports physical therapy vol. 8,2 (2013): 105-10. (link)
  3. Fukui, Tsutomu et al. “The effects of new taping methods designed to increase muscle strength.” Journal of physical therapy science vol. 29,1 (2017): 70-74. doi:10.1589/jpts.29.70
  4. Mathews, Susan et al. “Effect of elastic bandage wraps on leg edema in patients before and after liver transplant.” Progress in transplantation (Aliso Viejo, Calif.) vol. 25,4 (2015): 302-6, 331. doi:10.7182/pit2015877
Author
Mitch Torres (PT)
Mitch is a physical therapist, personal trainer, and nutrition coach. Fascinated with the knee joint, Mitch poured that passion into writing about knee pain and how to overcome it with movement. His goal is to teach you how to apply this knowledge into your daily life, so you can keep knee pain away for good.