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What are the Best Treatments for Bruising and Swelling?

By F. Hay
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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Bruising and swelling usually occurs when there is a rupture of blood vessels under the skin after surgery, a fall, or a blow to the body. The best treatments include rest, ice, compression, and elevation (RICE). People with this type of injury should rest and apply an ice pack to the affected area in order to help keep the bruise from spreading and keep swelling down. They should keep the area elevated if at all possible. After the initial day or so of ice pack treatment, heat packs should be applied to help relieve pain and facilitate healing of the bruised area.

For the first day or so after the bruising occurs, the area should be treated with an ice pack for short periods of time — no longer than 10 to 15 minutes. An ice pack wrapped in a towel makes a light compress and doesn't overly constrict the bruised skin. Patients should never apply ice packs directly to the skin. Once the bruising has stopped spreading after a day or two, a heat pack or warm compress can be applied. The heat will help carry blood cells away from the ruptured vessels and alleviate the bruising and swelling.

The black and blue color of a bruise occurs when there is swelling and the blood from the ruptured vessels gets less oxygen. The trapped blood spreads under the skin, making it look blue or black, which is the color of a freshly bruised area. As the blood under the bruised area continues to break down and heal, the bruise turns yellowish-green. A mild bruise might take several days to heal, whereas more severe or deep bruising might take several weeks to return to normal or at least significantly lighten.

Aspirin should be avoided until the bruise is starting to heal because it is an anticoagulant and prevents the blood from quickly clotting. If the blood does not clot quickly, it can cause more extensive bruising underneath the skin. Only pain relievers such as acetaminophen, which do not contain aspirin, should be used so that clotting is not affected.

There are many natural remedies to reduce swelling and bruising. Witch hazel is an herbal astringent that can be applied directly to the skin to speed healing of bruises and skin inflammation. Another herbal remedy used to reduce inflammation is Arnica, which is available in gel, cream, ointment, or liniment form and can be applied directly to the bruised and swollen area. Bruising and swelling that appears suddenly, and without a known trauma to the skin, should be checked by a medical professional who may recommend a different course of treatment.

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Discussion Comments
By anon941041 — On Mar 21, 2014

I still have some residual swelling on my cheek two weeks after being hit in the face. I have seen my doc to check that there are no other problems but wanted to know how long it will take for the swelling to disappear. The bruising has gone and I expected the swelling to have gone also. I am quite worried about it.

By anon923916 — On Dec 31, 2013

I fell and my arm (side of bicep) slammed against the edge of a wooden post, and the lump never went down!

By seag47 — On Oct 14, 2012

@kylee07drg – Ouch! That sounds like a really painful thing for a young child to experience.

I had a traumatic injury in a car wreck as a teenager. Because it happened on a highway, the police and ambulance came, and even though my leg was the only thing hurt, they carted me away to the hospital.

My knee was severely bruised. I couldn't walk on that leg for a few months, and the pain was excruciating. My knee was already starting to swell.

In the emergency room, they placed a bag of ice on my knee. They also gave me a prescription for some good painkillers, and I used them almost constantly for the first week following the accident.

By kylee07drg — On Oct 13, 2012

Bone bruise swelling is the worst kind. It gets so tender, and the bruise is really ugly!

I rammed my shin into the side of a brick step as a child. I was wearing wet rubber boots, and I slid right into it.

It hurt all the way down to the bone. That is the most intense pain I remember ever feeling, and it lasted all day!

My mother used ice and acetaminophen to treat the pain and reduce the swelling. Still, it was pretty bad. You don't injure a bone and get away with minimal bruising and swelling.

I still have a scar, and it's been twenty years! A chunk of flesh is missing on that shin.

By shell4life — On Oct 12, 2012

I've heard a lot of hype about a bruise relief cream containing Arnica. Is it really possible that this cream makes the coloring of a bruise go away? People are also saying it works great for dark undereye circles, but I'm skeptical.

By orangey03 — On Oct 12, 2012

Ice is the best of the bruise remedies, in my opinion. As long as I put ice on an injury within the first few minutes of the accident, I know that the swelling won't be nearly as bad as it could be.

Ice also seems to siphon the pain away from the site. The moments right after the injury are the ones filled with the most pain, but the ice helps to numb the area and lessen the severity of the pain.

For even the most minor bumps, I use at least one ice cube in a towel. I hate waiting for dark bruises to heal, so I try to prevent them from ever showing up.

By anon243615 — On Jan 28, 2012

The car trunk hit me on my breast. I used warm water first, then I was told I should ice it. Now I still have a lump there. Should I go to the doctor right away or wait for the swelling to go down? wzux

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