How to Wrap a Knee? Step by Step Guide For Immediate Pain Relief

step-by-step guide on how to wrap a knee in several different ways

So, you probably already know that wrapping your knee can help relieve you of some pain. It seems like the easiest thing to do but, really, the type of wrap you need depends on certain situations. So, today, I’m walking you through a step-by-step guide on how to wrap a knee in several different ways.

I’ll start off with simple techniques using the elastic Ace bandage followed by a couple of different taping methods that’ll help you get your knee right.

For further knee pain relief: Best Knee Sleeves for Pain Relief

Easy Ways To Wrap Your Knee

Using an elastic bandage

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

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

The spiral wrap

This wrapping technique is the most basic way of wrapping and you can use this on virtually any part of your limbs, including the knee.

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 20 minutes and replace the bandage with a dry counterpart.

You’ll need the following:

  • The right bandage size. I generally 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, other brands may use metal clips, while some others will require tape.

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.
  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 at an upward angle, 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 to each wrap. If there’s little to no tension, it’s too loose; if your toes and legs feel numb after a while, it’s too tight.
  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.

The figure of 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?

  • The figure of eight 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.

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. Although, 6 inches work fine for bigger folk and 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 about 25 degrees. This puts your knee in its neutral, loose position. Or, basically when it needs the most support.
  2. Wrap the bandage twice just below your knee. This serves as your anchor and your starting point. For the sake of uniformity, start your wrap from the outside part of your lower leg, moving above the shin and towards the middle, then under, and back outside. Again, do this twice.
  3. From the outside of your lower leg, angle the wrap upwards so you pass below your knee cap 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. Essentially, 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.

Seems like a fairly complicated wrap but if you hadn’t noticed yet, there’s a pattern.

Basically, the angled wraps are so you arrive above or below your joint and on the opposite side. On the other hand, the wrap-arounds are so you can do angled wraps on both sides of your legs.

The end result is two 8s around the knee with your patella uncovered. It’s the tension on these 8s that help give your knee a little more support.

How to wrap a knee with tape

Two of the better-known methods are the 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 – the kind of pain you might feel when you squat or use the stairs.

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 pretty much 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 your skin from the more adhesive leukotape.
  2. Leukotape. This tape is responsible for moving and tilting your patella to where it should be.

Both of these are fairly affordable and easy to find. But, if your local store doesn’t have them, you could always order from Amazon.

Steps:

  1. Sit near the edge of a chair with your knee relaxed and straight. You’ll know it’s properly relaxed if you can freely move and tip your patella with your hands.
  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. 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. This helps align your kneecap with the rest of your leg.
  6. The 2nd strip of leukotape runs from the outside of your upper kneecap and towards 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 towards 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 athletes whenever you turn on the TV or on weight lifters at the gym. However, by no means is its use limited to sports.

That being said, you can definitely 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, increase your range of motion, and muscle control. The method below is for general knee pain.

Just a disclaimer, though, studies around KT are largely inconclusive. Some people believe it’s all placebo but others also say they’ve benefitted from kinesiotaping.

If you ask me? I say it’s at least worth a shot. For one, it’s harmless even if it’s ineffective. And, second, maybe it’ll actually work.

However, it should also be a part of a good exercise/rehab program that includes improving your control over your joints and muscles, not the primary strategy.

What you’ll need:

  • Kinesio tape (1 standard I strip and 2 longer I strips). I personally 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 probably 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. Whatever position feels more comfortable.
  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%. The last inch or so of both ends of the tape are your anchors, so apply them 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 towards 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 towards 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.

FAQ:

Should I wrap my knee if it hurts?

Yes, you should.

If it’s a new injury or your osteoarthritis flaring up, the protocol would be to use RICE (Rest, Ice, Compress, Elevate). Also, in this case, doing a spiral wrap with an Ace bandage is generally the most suitable course of action.

If it’s a somewhat older injury to soft tissue, however, the better choice might be using the figure of 8 because it supports your ligaments.

Should I wrap my knee overnight?

Virginia Tech and several other reputable sources say no – and I agree.

Compressive wraps work because they slow down blood flow to the compressed area which, in turn, also reduces inflammation.

However, a knee wrap left on for too long (i.e. overnight) essentially deprives your joint of the nutrients and immune cells. Thus, slowing down recovery.

A better course of action would be to elevate your legs using a couple of pillows and let gravity pull your blood back to your heart.

Does wrapping your knee help with swelling?

According to research, a leg wrapped in an elastic bandage had less pain and swelling compared to a non-wrapped leg. So, yes, it does help.

Theoretically, this works because 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.

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

So, there you have it. How to wrap a knee injury can be done in many ways but, really, it all 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.

The bottom line is that you have options. If you’re not sure which option to pick, visit your doctor, your physical therapist, or any other expert in the field.