So, you slammed your leg into the bedpost last night and woke up this morning with a nasty bruise. What should you do to make it better? Should you use ice, use a heating pad, massage, or leave it alone. It is important to know because you do not want to do further damage to the area. You want it to heal quickly and properly.
Should I Massage a Bruise?
The answer is yes, but not right away.
What is a Bruise?
Any impact on your body can cause injury to the blood vessels beneath the skin. This results in blood pooling under the skin causing discoloration. If you massage it, you could damage more or the tissue and blood vessels. This will only make the bruise larger (and uglier) and take longer to heal.
You need to let your body do its job right after getting a bruise; at least for the first 48 to 72 hours. When you get a bruise, the body has a response that sends white blood cells and platelets in to stop the bleeding. It is creating small blood clots to do this.
The area will also begin swelling, as an inflammatory response of the body. The swelling is the extra fluid collecting in the area, which is actually what makes the bruise hurt. If you start massaging it right away, you are just causing more damage.
What Should I Do Instead of Massage?
The standard of care for a bruise is rest, ice, compression, and elevation (RICE). These four will put your bruise on the road to healing.
Rest is self-explanatory. You need to make sure you do not cause anymore damage to the bruised area. So, for the first 24 to 48 hours, it is important to just relax and let your body do its job and the blood flow to the area is reduced.
Ice is the most important part, but all the RICE methods help in minimizing the diameter of the bruise and reducing the swelling. The spread of the blood underneath the skin is halted when ice is applied because the ice helps minimize the flow of blood, thus condensing the size of the bruise. It also helps with the swelling and pain. Ice should be applied about every 2 hours for approximately 20 minutes.
Compression is usually achieved with an elastic sports wrap. Compression will also help reduce the bleeding and swelling. Additionally, it helps support the are that is injured, especially if it is an ankle or knee because these are weight bearing.
Elevation reduces bleeding and swelling by preventing additional blood to accumulate in the injured area. So, it is best to try and keep the area at or above the heart. Some areas of the body are harder than others to raise above your head, but just do your best.
When Can I Massage It?
Wait until the bruise starts turning green or yellow, or a few days after the initial bruising before beginning massage. This allows the bodies inflammatory response to get most of its work done, and increase circulation.
Then you can gently massage it. This will help keep circulation going and result in a higher volume of blood flow that will keep the healing going. But, do not do a deep massage right away, this can cause discomfort and potential damage to the area.
Massage can be part of rehabilitation and physical therapy. Using massage at this time will allow a professional to administer the massage, thus reducing the potential of additional damage to the area.
During the rehabilitation time, different methods can be utilized. It is at this time that heat can be applied to the area, techniques such as ultrasound can be used, and massage can be done. Massage will be able to reduce the scar tissue and other damaged tissue caused by the bruise. This should be used in conjunction with the other therapies because it is the only one that can reduce the underlying scar tissue by breaking it up.
The intensity of the massage should take a gradual path. At first, the area might be quite sensitive, so you might only be able to tolerate very gentle pressure. As the tissue begins healing, increased pressure will be tolerated.
Throughout the massage, you can do it bare or you can use special ointments. These ointments can contain anti-redness properties and other ingredients that will help with bruise relief. They are often very affordable and cause no side effects.
As part of the rehabilitation and massage, you should also do gentle stretching. This, of course, depends on where the bruise is located. If you bruised your ankle or elbow, you can engage in stretching exercises that will increase your range of motion. However, if you got a bruise on your thigh, it might be more difficult and less obvious what kind of stretches you can do.
Throughout the healing process, you need to make sure you drink a lot of fluids, preferably water. This will help hydrate the body and flush out toxins that may be released after the massage.
The following are some homemade remedies that can be tried, and gently spread on a fresh bruise:
If your bruise is bad enough, you might want to try some of these home remedies. You might also want to dry some over the counter creams, like Arnica, aloe vera, vitamin c, pineapple, or vitamin K. However, do not ignore the advice of medical professionals. The two approaches can be used in combination to achieve the fastest healing and minimize the damage to the bruised area.
When Does a Bruise Need Medical Attention?
Even though most bruises are caused by some sort of accident. There are times when they need medical attention. If you develop a lump over the bruise, if you seem to bruise for no reason, if you are vomiting, or if you are usually fatigued, you must seek medical attention.
For instance, if you twist your ankle and develop a large lump over the top of it, you need to seek medical attention to make sure it is not broken or has some other kind of serious injury.
Lumps, or hematomas, can be very scary, but many times they are benign and just need to be monitored. If significant pain persists, it may be indicative of a fracture and should be checked out.
I know that one time I received a bruise because I was giving blood platelets and they infiltrated my vein. This caused all my blood, that was flowing back into my arm, to pool under my skin. The bruise did not start to appear until the next day.
Unfortunately, I did not follow the RICE guidelines and it resulted in a bruise that stretched from my shoulder to my elbow. It was black, purple, and blue, and it hurt. I did seek medical attention and the hospital made sure, through ultrasound, that there was no underlying damage.
In hindsight, I should have iced it and elevated it. Perhaps it would not have gotten so bad.
Wrapping It All Up
So, you have read all the information, but it seems contradictory and confusing. The short of it is that you should not massage a bruise for at least 48 to 72 hours. This is because your body is trying to repair the broken blood vessels caused by the bruise.
After the 48 to 72 hours, it is okay to start with gentle massaging. This will help with circulation and help the bruise heal faster. But take it easy and start with very soft motions, working up to more pressure as tolerated.
But, do not be a cowboy. If the pain is severe or if it develops a hematoma, go see a medical professional. You don’t want to wait if there might be something more serious going on.
If you have any questions, please let us know.