How to wrap knee pain / a knee injury

Posted on July 12, 2012

(Last Updated On: February 23, 2018)

A common thing to do after an injury, or for pain, is to wrap the area. This is usually done with an accessory such as an ACE bandage.

There are definitely merits in subsiding the swelling through wrapping. I wrote about this extensively in Should you wrap an injury? There are also merits in wrapping sites of pain as the wrap can help promote a better movement pattern.

One thing I didn’t talk about in that article is how to wrap a particular injury. How do you wrap a shoulder injury? Or knee pain?

This piece will deal with the knee.

I’ve written extensively about the knee elsewhere on this site (see The best damn IT band stretch and A better quad stretch) and will write muche more on it in the future. For now, know that the overwhelming number one cause of knee pain is excessive rotation at the knee. That is, the knee rotates and caves too far inward.

Cause of knee pain

To be a tad more specific, the tibia (lower leg) rotates outward and the femur (upper leg) rotates inward.

knee pain causes

People often extend their knee too often as well.

Therefore, we want to wrap the knee in a way which will help prevent this rotation and hyperextension.

We’ll talk about that in a second; first, let’s talk about ways in which we do NOT want to wrap the knee. Note the idea here is to NOT wrap the knee in a way which will potentially accentuate the rotation/caving/hyperextension just mentioned.

The starting position is crucial here. If you hyperextend your knee you do NOT want to start wrapping it while it is hyperextended!


The wrap will then only help maintain this hyperextension. Meanwhile we’re trying to bend the knee more!

Next, if you rotate/cave your knee inwards you do not want to start wrapping with it rotated/caved inward!

And no. (Notice the knee inside the foot.)

We want to do the opposite of these movements. We want to start with the knee slightly bent and the foot and knee in a straight line with one another.

Here is how we do it:

See how the wrap starts by wrapping the tibia (lower leg) inwards, giving a slight moment of internal tibial rotation. This keeps the foot straight rather than pointed out. Next, the wrap reverses direction in order to promote lateral (outward) rotation of the femur (upper leg). Watch the video again if need be. It’s subtle, but important.

Therefore, the wrap is promoting movement at the knee like so:

ace bandage for knee pain

Notice the difference in the direction of the arrows compared to below.

This is in contrast to the photo above demonstrating the directions most often causing knee pain.knee pain causesRemember, in knee pain we commonly have the tibia laterally rotated and the femur internally rotated. Thus, with the wrap we want to promote the opposite of these movements in order to hopefully bring things back to balance.

Lastly, you’ll notice the patella (knee cap) is not wrapped during this process. In those with knee pain the patella is typically already irritated more than the Republicans are with Obama. The last thing we want to do is compress it and irritate it more. Leave the area alone. You can still get rid of the swelling in the knee by wrapping around it. I should know, I did this after my ACL/meniscus surgery! I still do it and it works great.

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Posted in: Knee Pain, Pain