If your bruise does not require an evaluation by a doctor, you may be able to use home treatment to help relieve pain, swelling, and stiffness.
- Rest and protect a bruised area.
Ice will reduce pain and swelling. Apply ice or cold packs immediately to prevent or minimize swelling. Apply the ice or cold pack for 10 to 20 minutes, 3 or more times a day.
- For the first 48 hours after an injury, avoid things that might increase swelling, such as hot showers, hot tubs, hot packs, or alcoholic beverages.
- After 48 to 72 hours, if swelling is gone, apply heat and begin gentle exercise with the aid of moist heat to help restore and maintain flexibility. Some experts recommend alternating between hot and cold treatments.
- Compression, or wrapping the bruised area with an elastic bandage (such as an Ace wrap), will help decrease swelling. Don't wrap it too tightly, as this can cause more swelling below the affected area. Loosen the bandage if it gets too tight. Signs that the bandage is too tight include numbness, tingling, increased pain, coolness, or swelling in the area below the bandage. Talk to your doctor if you think you need to use a wrap for longer than 48 to 72 hours. A more serious problem may be present.
- Elevate the bruised area on pillows while applying ice and anytime you are sitting or lying down. Try to keep the area at or above the level of your heart to help minimize swelling.
- Gently massage or rub the area to relieve pain and encourage blood flow. Do not massage the bruised area if it causes pain.
- If your bruise is causing pain, take an over-the-counter pain medicine, such as acetaminophen (Tylenol), ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin), or naproxen (Aleve). Read and follow all instructions on the label.
- If desired, apply a natural product directly to the bruise.
- Do not smoke or use other tobacco products. Smoking slows healing because it decreases blood supply and delays tissue repair. For more information, see the topic Quitting Smoking.
Symptoms to watch for during home treatment
Call your doctor if any of the following occur during home treatment:
- A bruise lasts longer than 2 weeks.
- Signs of skin infection develop.
- Symptoms become more severe or frequent.
- New symptoms develop.