Bruises (or contusions) are characterized by skin discoloration, pain and swelling. They develop when a blow breaks blood vessels near your skin’s surface and blood leaks into the surrounding tissue. Usually starting as pink or red marks, they can become blue or deep purple within hours. The color tends to be more intense when the broken capillaries are closer to the surface. They will fade away without any effort, but there are several steps you can take to get rid of bruises quickly and effectively.
How to Treat Bruises
1. Ice the Bruised Area
Applying ice on the bruised area will reduce swelling and help it heal more quickly. If you do this as soon as possible, you can stop the bruise from spreading.
- Fill a resealable plastic bag with ice chips. Wrap the bag in a towel or T-shirt, and lay it over the bruise. Do this for 15 minutes out of every hour. Over-chilling the skin around the bruise can lead to frostbite.
- You can also use flexible gel-filled ice packs. They are specifically designed for injuries and available from sports shops. Athletes usually keep a few on-hand to fight bruises.
2. Gently Massage the Bruise
Massage will help your body’s normal lymphatic process to clear the bruise away. Do this several times a day beginning the day after the bruising occurs.
- Keep in mind that the pressure shouldn’t be painful. If the bruise is too painful to touch, hold off.
Working your muscles increases blood flow to the bruised area, and increased blood flow can make your bruise worse. Rest for a few days, both to give your bruise a chance to heal and prevent further injury.
- Go to bed early. Your body needs sleep to repair itself, so go to bed as soon as you feel tired.
- Play a game, watch a movie, or read a book — just do something that doesn’t require much physical activity.
4. Elevate the Bruised Area
Elevating your bruise above your heart will decrease blood flow the bruised area with gravity’s help, and reduce discoloration.
- For instance, if your arm is bruised, prop it up on an armrest or a few pillows, so that it’s at heart-level or above.
- If the bruise is on your leg, settle onto the couch and rest your leg on top of a few pillows.
- If your torso is bruised, you won’t be able to elevate the bruised area. Focus on icing the area instead.
5. Get Some Sun
Sunlight breaks down bilirubin, which is the product of hemoglobin breakdown that causes the yellowish color of a bruise. Try to expose the bruise to sunlight to accelerate the breakdown of the remaining bilirubin.
- Try to get 10-15 minutes of direct sunlight a day. This should be enough to help break up your bruise without leading to a sunburn.
Home Remedies for Bruises
Pineapple has a digestive enzyme called bromelain. This enzyme breaks down proteins that trap fluids in the tissues after an injury. It has strong anti-inflammatory properties and studies have found that it helps heal bruises quickly.
- Taking at least 500 milligrams of bromelain each day can help you get rid of bruises faster.
2. Witch Hazel
Witch hazel is not only a good cure for bruises but also for sprains and varicose veins. The active ingredients found in witch hazel have astringent properties useful to heal bruises. It also stimulates drainage of lymphatic fluid from the bruised area thus helping in faster healing.
- Apply a cotton ball soaked in witch hazel on the bruise.
- Repeat this 2-3 times a day.
Arnica is one of the most effective and popular herbal remedies for bruises. It is an effective anti-inflammatory agent. This is because it’s high in chlorogenic acid, as well as helenalin and dihydrohelenalin.
- Find an ointment that contains arnica, and rub it over the bruised area once or twice a day.
Some experts claim that parsley decreases inflammation, reduces pain and can heal bruises quickly because it contains vitamin K.
- Take a handful of fresh parsley leaves, crush them and spread them all over the bruise. Wrap the area with an elastic bandage.
Comfrey is an old remedy for wounds and bruises. It contains a component known as allantoin which is an anti-inflammatory agent. If you have a bruise without a broken skin, make a compress using comfrey leaves to reduce swelling and promote bruise healing.
- You can also use comfrey tea as a compress, first as a cold compress for 1-2 days and then as a warm compress.
- In order to prepare comfrey tea, steep one tablespoon of dried comfrey herb in a cup of hot water for 15 minutes.
Note: Comfrey should not be taken internally, nor should it be applied to a broken skin.
Onion has inflammatory properties and it can work well on the damaged skin cells. Allinase, the same compound that makes our eyes water when we’re slicing this vegetable, also helps stimulate the flow of lymphatic fluid and prevents blood from pooling beneath the skin.
- Extract the juice of an onion and apply it on your bruise.
- Let your skin absorb the juice.
- You need to apply the onion as quickly as possible after you’ve bumped into something.
Watercress has blood purifying and mitigating properties. It has many health benefits and it is a good source of Vitamin C and Vitamin K, both of which help heal bruises.
- Crush a handful of watercress leaves and spread them over the bruise. Then cover the area with an elastic bandage.
- Apply this remedy twice a day.
Vinegar increases blood flow near the skin’s surface, so it may help to dissipate the blood that has pooled in the bruised area.
- Mix vinegar with warm water, and rub it over the bruised area.
Potatoes contain catalase, which reduces pain and inflammation. Place a small slice of potato over the bruised area and leave it there for a few minutes.
10. Live Leech
If you have access to a holistic medicine supply store, you can apply a live leech. It can remove the blood in a bruise in a few minutes. The leech’s saliva also acts as a mild painkiller, so you won’t feel the bite.
- Apply rubbing alcohol or petroleum jelly to remove the leech.
Note: This is only recommended if you can be sure that the leech is farm-raised and free of disease.
When to See Your Doctor
Most bruises are harmless, and can be treated safely at home. However, consider calling your doctor if:
- The bruise is on your face or head.
- You have a high fever, or you can see signs of infection (redness, pus or other drainage) around the bruise.
- You aren’t able to move a joint.
- The bruise spreads and becomes more painful.
- You’re bruising without any significant injuries.
If you feel extreme pressure around the bruise, call a doctor immediately. A significant decrease in blood and oxygen supply to one area is known as compartment syndrome, and can be life threatening.