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Tubular bandages are versatile, widely available and easy to use without restricting movement. They provide support and some compression for sprains, strains and other soft tissue injuries. They are also used to support weak joints and hypermobile joints that may be prone to full or partial dislocation (subluxation). They do not provide enough support to completely prevent injury or subluxations/dislocations, but are very effective to help reduce both pain and swelling after minor soft tissue injuries.

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Sprains, damage to one or more ligaments in a joint, usually caused by trauma or the joint being taken beyond its functional range of motion, are most frequently seen in ankles and wrists. Strains, commonly known as a pulled muscle, happen when muscular-fibers tear due to over stretching and are most commonly occur in leg muscles. Joint subluxations and dislocations, causing soft tissue trauma or micro-injuries in the surrounding tissue is experienced by those who have Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome Hypermobility Type and Joint Hypermobility Syndrome. Wearing a tubular bandage for a few days, or in the case of chronic joint instability, on most days, can speed up the recovery process and limit the damage.

Tubular bandages apply constant even support to the area where they are applied. Compression is one of the four steps of RICE (Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation). For an acute injury, it is vital that compression is applied within minutes after the injury to gain the most benefit. For recurring minor injuries, wearing a tubular bandage during the day when carrying out activities has the advantage of both providing some protection against injury as well as immediately applying pressure when an injury or joint subluxation occurs.

They are a cost-effective way to self manage minor injuries and are breathable, reusable and machine washable. Tubular bandage applicators are less than £10 and help to apply the bandage over painful areas easier, but be aware that an applicator is a set size and can only be used on one particular size of bandage. They come in different sizes for both adults and children, measure the circumference of the area where you want to apply it and purchase the correct size. There are even tubular bandages for fingers.

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Although minor injuries can safely be self treated at home, it is important to see a medical professional if needed. The NHS recommends to consult your GP or visit a minor injuries unit (MIU) “if you think you have a sprain or strain and:

  • the pain is particularly severe
  • you cannot move the injured joint or muscle
  • you cannot put any weight on the injured limb, or it gives way when you try to use it
  • the injured area looks crooked or has unusual lumps or bumps (other than swelling)
  • you have numbness, discolouration or coldness in any part of the injured area
  • the symptoms have not started to improve within a few days of self-treatment”

Tubular bandages are manufactured from a blend of cotton, nylon or polyester and a stretchy fabric like elastane. There are two types, look for elastic tubular bandages. Latex used to be popular, but has recently been removed due to the prevalence of latex allergies in most brands. Be sure to check that the product is latex free if you have an allergy to latex.

First Aid Kit Tip: Don’t bother packing tubular bandages because they have to be the correct size to work well. Instead, pack one elastic bandage and stock up on various size tubular bandages at home if you make use of them often.

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