When someone hits you -- or you bump into something hard -- it can break the small blood vessels beneath your skin. That’s where a bruise forms. This happens because the blood leaks out and has nowhere else to go. It stays there until your body absorbs it while you’re healing.
Once you’re bruised, you’ll have that telltale black-and-blue mark on your skin for up to 2 weeks. The bruise should change colors as it heals. You may also have some pain and swelling. It will hurt most in the first few days after your injury.
When you’re bruised, there are simple things you can do to try to help the healing process along. These tips may help your bruise go away more quickly:
Put ice on your bruise right after you get injured. That can reduce the size of your bruise, which may allow it to heal faster. The cold temperature from an ice pack makes the blood in that area flow more slowly. It may reduce the amount of blood that leaks out of your vessels.
Don’t put ice directly on your bruise -- protect your skin by wrapping the ice in a washcloth or paper towel. Remove the ice from your skin after about 10 minutes. Leaving it on too long could harm your skin. It’s OK to put ice on your bruise several times a day, as long as you take a break after every time you do it.
Peas, yes. Steak, no. You may have seen people in old movies or cartoons putting raw steaks on their bruises -- especially on black eyes. Don’t do this yourself. It’s not safe to handle raw meat or place it against your eye or another body part, since it may be loaded with bacteria. Steaks and other raw meats don’t have special healing powers that can help a bruise. Raw meat tends to be cold, so that’s why it may have been used to soothe sore spots in decades past. If you don’t have any ice in your freezer, reach for a bag of frozen peas instead of a steak. Place the whole bag of veggies on your bruise for 10 minutes at a time to ease the pain, just like you would with ice.
Stop what you’re doing when you get hurt. That can keep the bruise from getting worse. If you get kicked during a soccer game, head off the field. Get off your feet. This slows down the blood flow to your bruise. That should keep it from becoming worse than if you kept running around.
You may want to massage the sore spot when you’re resting, but it’s a bad idea. That can make the injured spot worse. You may break more blood vessels under the skin and make the bruised the area larger.
After you’re injured, it helps if you raise it above the level of your heart. This trick uses gravity to help keep your bruise as small as can be. When the sore spot is below the level of your heart, the blood there pools more easily, which can make the bruise larger. But when the sore spot is lifted above your heart, more blood will flow back to your heart.
For best results, combine steps: Rest the bruise and raise it above the level of your heart at the same time. You can also place ice on the injured spot in 10-minute segments.
Your pain should begin to subside about 3 days after you were bruised. In the meantime, if the bruise really hurts, you can take over-the-counter drugs to relieve your pain. Some drugs (like acetaminophen) help to reduce pain, while other drugs (like aspirin and ibuprofen) help to relieve pain and also reduce swelling. This may be helpful if your bruise looks or feels very swollen.