What is a Tensor Bandage?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

A tensor bandage is an elasticized bandage used to provide support to a sprained or strained limb. This type of bandage may also be known as an ace bandage or ace wrap. Many drugstores carry tensor bandages in their wound care aisles and they are also available at doctor's offices and clinics in standardized lengths and widths. These bandages can be useful to keep in a first aid kit for immediate treatment of strains and sprains. Athletes, in particular, may keep these bandages around to be prepared for injuries.

Tensor bandages may be available at doctors' offices.
Tensor bandages may be available at doctors' offices.

This bandage design consists of an elasticized knit. The bandage can be wrapped around an ankle, wrist, or knee and it will conform, holding tension and providing support. Tensor bandages are held in place with small, toothed metal clips. The materials used in the bandage can include synthetics, as well as cotton and other natural fibers, depending on the manufacturer. Typically, these bandages are cream or flesh colored and they may be striped or decorated.

Tensor bandages may be used for immediate treatment of strains.
Tensor bandages may be used for immediate treatment of strains.

One advantage to the tensor bandage is that the knit allows the fabric to breathe naturally. The skin underneath the bandage benefits from the air circulation. These bandages are also fully washable and reusable. The design usually withstands hard washing and bleach, allowing people to fully clean a bandage between uses. Since these bandages are not designed to be applied directly to wounds, they shouldn't absorb infectious material like liquids that seep from injuries.

Athletes may keep tensor bandages on hand for injuries.
Athletes may keep tensor bandages on hand for injuries.

Care must be taken when applying a tensor bandage. The flexibility of the bandage can allow someone to wrap too tightly, which exposes the patient to the risk of injury. The area of concern should be wrapped starting below the area of injury and working up. While the bandage should be snug, if the area below the injury changes color, tingles, or feels numb, the bandage is too tight. A feeling of snug support should be experienced while wearing the bandage, but not pinching or pain.

Tensor bandages are also called ace bandages or ace wraps.
Tensor bandages are also called ace bandages or ace wraps.

Tensor bandages are usually stored rolled up and clipped. The roll is not tight, ensuring that the elastic does not wear out from being kept in a constant state of tension. If the clips are lost and damaged, replacement clips can be purchased. When the shape of the bandage starts to be distorted or the elastic is clearly overstretched, it is time to replace the bandage. Likewise, bandages that are badly stained or that have been in contact with highly infectious people should be discarded.

Tensor bandages -- commonly called Ace bandages -- have elastic and are typically used to treat light strains and sprains.
Tensor bandages -- commonly called Ace bandages -- have elastic and are typically used to treat light strains and sprains.
Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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Discussion Comments

drtroubles

If you have a sprained ankle and someone suggests you use a tensor bandage, take his or her advice. If you don't properly support the ankle and keep it from moving it is going to swell like crazy.

Another great idea is to add an ice pack over the tensor bandage if you hurt your ankle.

My mother used to put some muscle soothing cream on my ankle that had a numbing property to it, before applying the tensor bandage. To make sure the tensor bandage didn't get icky from the cream she would use a simple piece of tissue between the tensor bandage and my skin. It worked like a charm and helped me recover.

Sara007

Having a tensor bandage in your first aid kit is an excellent idea. They are very cheap and you can pick one up at any place that sells bandages for a couple of dollars.

It is also a good idea to make sure you buy some safety pins for the bandage. While they do come with clips, I have found these usually come undone easily and get lost quickly.

If you are new to putting on tensor bandages, be careful not to wrap it to tightly. This will not only itch, but may cause problems with circulation. It should be tight enough to keep the limb supported, but not tight enough to cut off circulation.

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