A famous philosopher once said that life is made up of good times, bad times, and a few bruises and scars along the way to prove you were alive. Actually, I just coined that phrase, but ain’t that the truth!
Bruises are an inescapable part of life, but they’re also incredibly painful, gruesome and often unsightly. When you were younger, a good bruise was somewhat of a trophy; proof that you were tough, adventurous, mysterious and full of life. But as you age, these blotches get harder to heal and only work to show just how irresponsible of an adult you are.
I’ll be the first to admit; walking around with visible bruising is never fun; especially if it’s on your face and neck. I’ve had virtually all sorts of bruises over the years. From innocent run-ins with furniture all the way to not-so-innocent black eyes (yes, both at the same time) from run-ins with a well-aimed fist and hickeys all over my neck from… you get the picture, right?
Walking around with some particularly distinctive neck marks or a black eye is basically an unwritten invitation for anyone to ask what happened. Now, it’s one thing if you have an awesome story to back up the nasty bruises, but chances are that you would rather not talk about it, am I right?
Hey, don’t even worry about it. No matter how you got your bruises, there’s no shame in it. Your only mistake would be to do nothing about it. Lucky for you, you’ve landed smack dab in the best place you could possibly be for all things bruise-related.
I’ll be looking at what bruises are and what exactly causes these contusions. I’ve also got some incredible treatments, home remedies, and a special surprise lined up for all you naturalists out there. So buckle up readers, I’m about to rock your black and blue world with this in-depth, comprehensive and entertaining mother of all guides to bruises.
What Are Bruises?
I could tell you that bruises are skin discolorations that occur when you take a severe hit to any part of your body, but where’s the fun in that?
Here, we’re all about the facts, the science, and our right to get a well-researched answer. So without half-assing it, a bruise can be defined as a kind of hematoma of the tissue in which blood capillaries have allowed blood to seep or hemorrhage into the nearby interstitial tissues as a result of damage from trauma.
Since the skin was not broken, blood pools in the nearby tissues and creates a raised area or bump around the skin. Soon enough, the area develops the trademark purplish, black and blue discoloration associated with bruising.
The most common cause for bruising is usually direct impact from an object, but there are also other causes that we will look at shortly. But first, it’s worth noting that there’s an actual scale for scoring bruise severity and danger. Bruises can also be scored from a 0 to 5 as follows:
- Light bruise with no damage,
- Mild bruising with little damage,
- Moderate bruising with some damage,
- Serious contusions, and
- Extremely serious bruises that are quite dangerous.
- However, the most serious type is a critical bruise that poses the risk of crippling injury or death.
Causes Of Bruises
We’ve already seen how these contusions occur when blood capillaries leak blood into skin tissue. However, what could cause these capillaries to break in the first place?
- Typically, the most common cause for bruising is when you either bump into something, or something bumps into you. This includes falls, stubs, running into furniture, getting punched and pretty much any other blunt force trauma or hard hitting impact to the head and body.
- Bruising can also be caused when you undertake vigorous physical activity such weight lifting or athletics. These types of contusions as a result of microscopic tears in blood vessels under the skin.
- It’s also not uncommon to find contusions in old people without any real trauma as a factor. This is because skin becomes thinner and far less elastic with age. As a result, supportive tissues and blood vessels become more fragile and prone to rupturing without much effort.
- Similarly, unexplained bruising on certain areas could be an indication of underlying medical conditions. This includes coagulation disorders, leukemia, and meningococcal infection. Similarly, internal bleeding can be as a result of some forms of cancer or long-term glucocorticoid therapy that causes easy bruising around the navel area. Spontaneous bruising can also be caused by connective tissue disorders like as Ehlers-Danlos syndrome.
Signs And Symptoms Of Bruising
Aside from the wide range of discoloration hues on the skin, bruises can be associated with tenderness of the area in question. And since bruises change in appearance over time, it’s actually possible to tell how old a bruise is just by looking at it.
Initially, a bruise will be fresh and reddish looking when it first appears. This is to reflect the color of fresh blood under the skin. After about one or two days, the reddish iron in your blood undergoes a change and the bruised area turns purple or blue. By the fifth day, there should be some hues of green and if it’s not healed by the ninth day, it will turn yellowish brown. Ideally, it only takes two to three weeks for an ordinary bruise to heal. We know it’s never really a symptom line up without the actual list; so I’ve compiled one for you.
- Initial, fresh bruise will be reddish
- Tenderness, pain, and swelling at point of impact
- Severe discoloration with several hues
- Discoloration fades away after a few weeks
There are some rare occasions, however, where the opposite happens. Instead of going away on its own, the bruised area might actually start increasing in size and become firm and even more painful. If this happens, then it could be as a result of the body trying to wall up the blood instead of cleaning up as it normally would. This will have to be drained by a doctor.
Treatments And Cures For Bruises
Most bruising will usually go away on its own, but that doesn’t mean that you should leave your body to its own devices. There’s always a little something extra that you could do for the discoloration, pain, and anything else to speed up the recovery process.
I’ve rounded up all the conventional and non-conventional treatments for bruises. As always, I start things off with recommendations from good old western medicine.
A: Medical Treatment For Bruises
- Technically, doctors have no special treatment for bruises. As such, the most common treatments for bruising involve some clever home remedies, and some over the counter medications for pain. However, it’s important to visit a doctor who will check you out for additional damage. It’s not entirely uncommon for bruises to come with a few broken bones. If there’s no instance of internal bleeding or broken bones, then your doctor might proceed with the following treatments.
- Applying a medicated cream that contains mucopolysaccharide poly sulfuric acid such as Hirudoid helps speed up the healing process. Your doctor could also recommend other topical solution creams with skin-fortifying ingredients that include retinol and/or alphahydroxy acid, such as DerMend. These will help improve and enhance the appearance of bruised areas faster than if you were to leave the contusion and discoloration to heal all on its own.
- For people who bruise easily and regularly, a pharmacist may be able to sort you out with a dose of 200 mg of Vitamin C every day. This works just as good as supplements and potent antioxidants like Pycnogenol by strengthening your veins, arteries, and capillaries. Pycnogenol also improves skin elasticity by bonding to the underlying collagen fibers.
- If the bruising is serious or goes way deep into the tissue, the doctor might be able to prescribe 200-400 mg of Bromelain. This is an enzyme that speeds up the healing process and clears metabolic waste from the area of injury.
- For painful bruising and contusions, you may be prescribed with over-the-counter pain killers for relief. A popular one is Acetaminophen. Avoid ibuprofen and aspirin because these act as blood thinners and may make things worse by prolonging the bleeding.
B: Curing Bruises Faster
Apart from all the above meds, drugs and creams, there are plenty of things you could do to help speed things up along. Experts call it the RICE method, but it turns out that it has nothing to do with rice at all. It’s actually an acronym for Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation that actually collaborate nicely when it comes to treating bruises. Let’s see what all this means.
i) Ice and Compression
Ever wonder why everyone rushes for a slab of frozen steak or peas after a nice fist fight? The reason is because cold temperatures reduce blood flow and activity in the affected area. As a result, this limits the amount of bleeding into the skin as well as the size of the bruise. But don’t apply ice directly to the skin. Put a cloth over anything frozen and apply pressure to the bruised area for about half an hour to reduce the swelling. This is also known as a cold-compress and is pretty effective in reducing the severity of the symptoms.
ii) Rest and Elevation
When it comes to bruises, the last thing you want to do is overwork or aggravate the area. That’s because any activity increases blood circulation to the area which is very bad for the initial healing process. The best thing you can do right now is to cool your jets, take it easy and avoid any further injury. Try to watch a movie, read a book or anything else that doesn’t require lots of physical activity. In short, give your body enough rest to repair itself. Elevating and massaging the area also helps drain it more easily and encourage the body’s lymphatic process to kick in.
C: Essential Oils
There’s nothing like the brilliant coloration of a bruise to advertise your clumsiness to everyone. Massive or minuscule, black, blue or yellow; we all have accidents sometimes. Now, if we lived in a cushion-coated world with zero sharp edges and mishaps, it would be a totally different story. The sad truth is that we all bruise like delicate fruit; some more delicate than others. But what the world did give us was a broad range of essential oils to plunder.
Essential oils have been used for centuries to speed up the healing process, reduce inflammation, alleviate pain and improve the look of bruises, cuts and temporary injuries. Thanks to their anti-inflammatory, antiseptic, analgesic and antioxidant properties, some of these oils can really work wonders for bruises that can only be described as far gone.
In addition to lending a helping hand to the healing process, essential oils also soothe the skin, reduce swelling, minimize tenderness, fade discoloration, improve blood circulation and encourage clean up around the bruised area. Lucky for all you bruised souls out there, I’ve done the hard yards and laid out exactly which essential oils are perfect for dealing with contusions, bruises, and temporary injuries.
7 Best Essential Oils For Bruises
Instead of watching your step all the time or getting rid of that cursed coffee table that’s always bruising your shin, why not try out some of the following oils?
Of all the oils out there, Lavender still remains consistently the top selling essential oil; and for good reason. Lavender is one of the most diverse oils on the planet with more health applications and medical properties than you could possibly list.
This particular oil is well-famed for its uncanny ability to prevent bruises from forming, or minimize the discoloration and appearance at the very least. This is all thanks to its anti-inflammatory and astringent properties that keep blood from pooling and welling up in the area of impact; meaning that you might be able to avoid the bruise entirely if you apply the lavender oil immediately. And apart from being highly unlikely to cause negative reactions, lavender oil is perfectly safe for kids too.
Cypress essential oil might be less popular than some of the other big wigs on my list, but it also boasts of a staggering number of different medical applications. It’s been used as far as humans can remember on the skin to heal some minor wounds and relieve issues such as stretch marks and varicose veins. This particular essential work wonders for contusions due to its ability to stimulate circulation and block pooling of blood. Like lavender, cypress oil should also be used immediately after impact to mitigate the appearance, control discoloration and offer pain relief.
Apart from being incredibly hard to spell out, Helichrysum oil is widely known and equally respected for its numerous skin applications. Despite being one of the rarest and most expensive ‘esensh’ oil, it still remains quite the popular natural remedy for many. The best way to apply Helichrysum essential oil is by combining it with a carrier oil and using it for treating abrasions, sun burns, bruising, blemishes, and scarring.
Like most people, you probably got your bruise as a result of a painful event or forceful impact to the body. If your contusions were caused by a blow or nasty bump to the skin, then nothing works better than lemongrass essential oil. Thanks to its antiseptic and analgesic properties, lemongrass oil helps soothe achy muscles, offer pain relief, reduce swelling and facilitate faster healing. The strong scent of the lemongrass oil can also help with aromatherapy and bed rest.
Here’s another fairly expensive oil with medical properties that make it worth more than its weight in gold. Rosemary oil boasts a broad range of powerful antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds that help it regulate your body’s immune response to bruises. But that’s not all; this fancy oil also helps lower instances of inflammation and cuts down on oxidative stress to open way for a faster recovery.
Here’s another underdog that doesn’t get enough credit for what it can do. Geranium essential oil is known to stimulate the production of new, healthy tissue while also increasing circulation to the bruised area. Not only is this incredibly beneficial for repairing damaged tissue, but it also kick starts the healing process and diminishes the appearance of nasty contusions. What’s more, Geranium actually reduces wrinkles and counteracts the effects of aging on the skin.
For concerned parents who have young, rough and active kids who love to tumble, then this is one oil that you can’t afford to miss in your meds cabinet. Apart from being safe for kids, Frankincense essential oil contains antioxidant and stimulant compounds that can be linked to reducing the ugly appearance of nasty bruises. Frankincense also boosts the immune system and relieves stress.
3 Essential Oil Recipes For Bruises
I’ve consulted my essential oil expert (grandma) for some of the most effective, time tested recipes of all time. I’ve kept them very simple and fun for all you DIY lovers.
1. Neat EO Application Recipe
For minor bruises, a simple, neat application is recommended. This means that users can apply 2-3 drops of essential oils directly to the skin, undiluted. Remember that these oils are very concentrated, so precautions should be taken when using them undiluted.
What You’ll Need:
- 2 drops lavender oil
All you have to do is put just 2 or 3 drops of lavender essential oil on the bruise and massage it gently.
2. Quick Healing Bruise Blend
This blend works wonders if you can use it as soon as the bruising occurs to nip the problem in the bud. To make this blend, you’ll need the following.
What You’ll Need:
- 3 drops lavender oil
- 6 drops geranium oil
- 4 drops arnica oil
- 6 drops lemongrass oil
- Fractionated coconut oil
- 30 ml roller bottle
Clean out the roller bottle and add all the above ingredients one by one. Top with coconut oil and push the roller ball back on and gently roll around the bruised area three times a day.
3. Cooling And Soothing Gel Recipe
Most bruises come with severe inflammation and pain to the affected area. If the pain is too much to bear, here’s what you’ll need to make a cooling and soothing gel.
What You’ll Need:
- 7 drops lavender essential oil
- 9 drops geranium oil
- 5 drops cypress essential oil
- 5 drops helichrysum essential oil
- 4 drops arnica
- 6 tablespoons of aloe vera gel
- glass jar
Whisk all the essential oils into the aloe vera gel and transfer everything to the amber glass jar. Store in a cool, dry place and use it anytime you get a bruise by smearing gently over the affected area. Massage gently until the pain goes away.
5 Best Home Remedies For Bruising
Hey, just because you don’t have any essential oils nearby doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t try and treat your bruises using other means. And since bruises are among the most common skin issues, there’s no shortage of home remedies that you can use.
I’ve talked to lots of people to find out what they’ve been using to treat their contusions and bruises over the years. You’ll be surprised once you hear how some of these cures have been hiding right under your nose.
That’s right, basking in the sun is the best thing you can do for bruised skin. That’s because the sun’s UV rays actively break down bilirubin; a by-product of hemoglobin that causes the yellowing coloration of bruises. If its possible, try to expose your bruises to some sun to help accelerate isomerization of any remaining bilirubin. Just be careful you don’t get sunburned and cause even more damage to your skin.
Here’s a delicious seasoning that can also help you with your bruising. Mixing vinegar with a little warm water and rubbing it over the contused area helps increase blood flow and circulation near the skin’s surface. As such, it will dissipate the pooled blood under the skin much quicker than if you did nothing.
Surprise surprise, turns out pineapples are the perfect recovery fruit. Pineapples contain a digestive enzyme known as Bromelain that breaks down proteins which trap fluids in your tissues after an impact or injury.
The kitchen seems to be full of remedies for bruises. Just don’t start salivating yet because this one isn’t an internal remedy. Parsley has been shown to reduce inflammation, alleviate pain and help bruises fade away more quickly. All you have to do is take a nice handful of parsley leaf and crush them then spread all over the bruised area. Wrap the contused area with elastic bandage to keep the parsley secured in place and help it get absorbed.
5. Live Leeches
As unconventional as it may sound, leeches have been used extensively in holistic medicine. If you have any access to a Chinese med store or a holistic med supply store, then you can get live leeches and apply them to the contused region. The leeches will remove all the surface blood and fluids in a matter of seconds while their saliva acts as a soft, mild pain killer too.
The Final Word
There you have it folks; as promised, everything you need to know about bruises right at your fingertips. With this information, treating your bruises will be much easier and hassle free.
Most of the medications and remedies I have named above will work great for minor injuries and bruises. However, you might have to consult a doctor if your bruise was serious enough to have caused some internal damage or broken bones. And always remember that bruises are an inevitable part of life; today’s painful shiner will not be your last. So make sure you keep a well-stocked medicine cabinet and always have some lifesaving essential oils at hand.