What Is a Figure Eight Bandage?

Dan Harkins

Various breaks and sprains can occur to joints or ligaments throughout the body. Often, a figure eight bandage is applied to contain the damage and keep the injury immobilized to promote healing. Occurring at the wrist, ankle, elbow, knee or even collarbones, this type of wrap entails an alternating style of application that crosses over itself to mimic the creation of the number eight.

Wrists are wrapped by circling the wrist bone a few times with a figure eight bandage, in a direction away from the thumb.
Wrists are wrapped by circling the wrist bone a few times with a figure eight bandage, in a direction away from the thumb.

A figure eight bandage is typically made of a thick bandage tape, rather than the customary flexible bandaging. This tape should have very little or no flexibility. The goal is to immobilize the joint — not just a little but completely. Using a stretchable fabric tape will have less effectiveness.

A figure eight bandage may be needed to help a wrist injury to heal.
A figure eight bandage may be needed to help a wrist injury to heal.

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At each injured joint, a figure eight bandage is applied in a slightly different way. The wrists and ankles as well as the elbows and knees are the most common places to apply this type of bandage. A broken collarbone also may need a figure eight bandage to immobilize it, though many doctors recommend a sling for wrapping this injury, particularly for its greater comfort.

A figure eight bandage may be used for elbows and other joints.
A figure eight bandage may be used for elbows and other joints.

The wrists are wrapped by circling the wrist bone a few times with the tape, in a direction away from the thumb that begins on the top of the arm. Then, the bandage is secured in the correct direction to wrap across the palm and around the thumb. At the heel of the hand the tape wraps back around to a crossing point. It is then wrapped up and down the top and bottom of the figure eight until uniformly secure.

A figure eight bandage application may be required if a person experiences a bad fall.
A figure eight bandage application may be required if a person experiences a bad fall.

For the ankle, the tape is wrapped toward the instep on the underside first, then up and over the top of the foot. The heel can then begin to be immobilized by creating the crossing point at the top of the foot that forms the figure eight bandage with the foot and ankle, leaving part of the heel exposed. Bandaging for the elbows and knees are performed in a similar fashion. For the collarbone, the figure eight is formed by both shoulders and underarms, with a crossing point between the shoulder blades.

Tensor bandages -- commonly called Ace bandages -- have elastic and are typically used to treat light strains and sprains of the wrist and elsewhere on the body.
Tensor bandages -- commonly called Ace bandages -- have elastic and are typically used to treat light strains and sprains of the wrist and elsewhere on the body.

Medical experts recommend rewrapping a joint if the bandage is causing the toes or fingers to ache or become blue. To keep the tape from coming unglued, some fasten the end strip with a safety pin, particularly for a participating in a sporting event during rainy weather. Seeking medical attention is imperative instead of simply wrapping a joint and assuming it is a sprain that will heal. The pain could be caused by a fracture that needs specialized care.

Safety pins may be used to secure bandages.
Safety pins may be used to secure bandages.
Figure eight bandages are often used to immobilize an injured collarbone.
Figure eight bandages are often used to immobilize an injured collarbone.
The heel can be immobilized with a figure eight bandage around the foot and ankle, leaving the heel exposed.
The heel can be immobilized with a figure eight bandage around the foot and ankle, leaving the heel exposed.

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