We all get bruises occasionally. Of course, some of us seem to get bruised much more easily and more often than others, but if someone get’s bumped hard enough, a nasty looking bruise is going to form. Even though they are a minor injury and generally aren’t too painful, they can look a lot worse than they feel. And, unfortunately, we can get a bruise at the most inconvenient times. Getting an ugly bruise before a beach vacation or formal event can be annoying and stressful.
However, there are some steps you can take to help heal bruises faster and minimize their appearance, as well as help relieve pain and swelling. To better understand how to heal or reduce bruising, it’s help to understand what bruises are and why they form.
What is a Bruise?
Bruises are also called contusions. A bruise is usually caused by bumping a part of your body hard enough that small blood vessels located under your skin get damaged. When these blood vessels are damaged, small amounts of blood seep into the soft tissues surrounding them.
The blood then collects, causing the skin to appear black, blue, purple, or red. The body gradually breaks down the blood, causing the color to shift through a variety of hues and tones (including green and yellow). The changing colors mean that your body is healing the bruise.
The Process of Bruise Healing
After the initial injury, bruises generally go through the following process of healing:
- You will have a tender, painful bump that will appear red or purple in color. The blood collecting under the skin causes the swelling and tenderness.
- After two or three days, your bruise will darken, appearing black and blue.
- After a week or so, the bruise may start to appear green and/or yellow.
- Finally, after two weeks, the bruise should be mostly healed. At this time, it should have faded to a light brown color. It will continue to fade in the following days until it is gone.
The majority of bruises will heal and disappear after two weeks. Some bruises may disappear more quickly, depending on the severity of the bruise. Also, some people’s bodies naturally heal bruises more quickly. If a bruise isn’t completely or mostly healed after two weeks, you may want to check with your doctor.
Why Do I Bruise Easily?
The fact is that some people just tend to bruise more easily than others, and may suffer a more severe bruise than someone else with a similar injury. Also, as people age, their skin gets thinner, which may make result in bruising more easily.
However, getting bruised easily, or spontaneously without an injury, may indicate that there is any underlying medical issue that needs to be addressed. Some health factors that may contribute to easy bruising include:
- Getting bruised easily could indicate that one’s bone marrow isn’t creating enough platelets. Platelets are cells in the blood that help to seal leaks in damaged blood vessels. This condition is known as thrombocytopenia, and sometimes occurs with chronic alcoholism or with diseases like anemia and leukemia. A blood test is able to determine whether this is the case.
- Some drugs and medications can make one bruise more easily. Some of these medications include: chlorothiazide, warfarin (coumadin), aspirin, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, quinine, quinidine, and regular use of prednisone.
- Having a nutritional deficiency of vitamin K can also result in bruising more easily. Vitamin K is responsible for aiding in blood clotting. You’re more likely to have a deficiency of vitamin K if you’ve been taking oral antibiotics. Antibiotics destroy bacteria in the intestines which produce vitamin K.
- Also, having a deficiency of vitamin C could contribute to getting bruised easily. Vitamin C is used in the production of collagen. Collagen strengthens the blood vessels in skin, helping them to resist bruising.
How to Speed Up Bruise Healing
The faster you are able to treat a bruise, the more likely you will be able to minimize its appearance and speed up its healing. Following is a list of the most effective home remedies for making bruises heal faster:
Put Ice on the Bruise
This is probably the most important step you can take to help heal bruises more quickly. You need to put ice, an ice pack, or something else cold (like a bag of frozen vegetables) on the bruise as soon as possible. Applying ice immediately after receiving the injury is ideal. The cold reduces the flow of blood to the injured area, causing less blood to leak into the soft tissues around the injury. Because a bruise is caused by the pooling of blood in the tissues, this step will reduce the severity of the bruise from the start, as well as reduce swelling and pain. It’s always a good idea to have several ice packs of different sizes ready in your freezer so that you can treat injuries quickly. Apply ice or an ice pack for about 10 minutes. Wait 20-30 minutes before reapplying. This helps to keep the underlying tissues from getting too cold.
After icing the bruise, or if you aren’t able to immediately apply ice, wrap the injured area in an elastic bandage. Like applying ice, compressing the injured tissues helps to reduce the amount of blood that leaks out of damaged blood vessels into the surrounding tissue, thereby minimizing the bruise, as well as relieving pain and swelling.
Elevate the Injury
If you are able to, sit or lie down with the bruised area elevated higher than your heart. Elevating the injury reduces blood flow to the injury and also promotes any pooled fluids in the bruise to drain away, speeding up bruise healing. This helps to reduce the appearance of the bruise and reduce swelling.
Apply Heat to the Bruise
You should apply cold for the first day. However, after 24 hours, the bruise is usually well formed and ice will no longer be effective for treatment. Now, you can apply heat to increase blood flow to the injured area. Increasing blood circulation helps to speed up the removal of blood that is contained in the injury, resulting in the bruise fading more quickly. Using heat can also soothe pain and swelling. You can use a heating pad, hot water bottle, or heat pack. A hot bath works fine too.
Arinica Gel or Ointment
Arnica is a natural, homeopathic herb that comes from a plant in the daisy family. Many people swear by it for treating minor injuries like bruises and burns. It is widely used to help relieve pain, swelling, and inflammation. This makes it an ideal treatment for bruises. Apply arnica gel or ointment to the bruise two or three times a day. Keep arnica on hand for any minor injury that causes swelling and pain.
Comfrey is another plant that is popular for treating inflammation and swelling. Comfrey can be applied as a cream or as a compress. A compress is made by steeping dried comfrey leaves in boiling water for about 10 minutes. Strain the liquid and soak a towel in the liquid. Then, simply apply the compress to the bruise for 20-30 minutes. Do not apply comfrey to an open wound or if the skin is broken.
Aloe vera is widely used to treat pain and inflammation. Aloe vera gels and creams are popular and effective remedies for minor burns, but can also be used to reduce swelling and inflammation of bruises. Try to get a product that is made from pure aloe vera.
Vitamin K for Bruises
Vitamin K is critical for blood clotting in the body. It is actually this nutrient’s primary function in the body. People who bruise easily may have a vitamin K deficiency. If this is the case, you may want to increase your intake of foods that are high in vitamin K. Green, leafy vegetables are an especially good source of the vitamin. However, vitamin K creams are also available. Some studies have shown that vitamin K creams can help reduce bruising. It should be applied to the bruise twice a day for optimum effectiveness.
Vitamin C Supplements or Gels
Another vitamin deficiency which can contribute to bruising easily is vitamin C. If you tend to bruise easily, you may need more vitamin C in your diet, through food or supplementation. Vitamin C gels and creams are also available that you can rub into bruises to help them heal.
Other Topical Treatments for Bruises
Other natural treatments you can apply to bruises to help them heal faster include: parsley, St. John’s Wort oil, Witch Hazel, and vinegar-water mixture. Apply these topical treatments once or twice a day to help speed recovery.
Other Dietary Supplements for Bruises
Some other natural dietary supplements you can take to prevent or heal bruises include: bromelain (pineapple enzymes), pycnogenol, and bilberry extract. These all act to help your body resist bruising.
Be Careful with Pain Relievers
If you get a bruise, avoid taking aspirin. Aspirin is a blood thinner, which means it can cause even more blood to pool in your bruise, making it appear even darker and more severe. Ibuprofen (Motrin or Advil) have this same property, so they should be avoided for bruises, as well. If you do feel that you need a pain relief medication, then use acetaminphen (Tylenol).
When Should you See Your Doctor?
If you have bruises appearing spontaneously in areas where you were not injured, you should check with your doctor. This can be a sign of more serious, underlying conditions, such as hemophilia, anemia, or leukemia. If you get a bruise on a joint and it becomes swollen, you should also check with your doctor.
If a bruise doesn’t fade in one to two weeks, or if you also have extreme pain or a fever, you should also call or visit your doctor.