What is a bruise?
Bruises occur when blood leaks out from small blood vessels under the skin, explains Dr. Nader, creating that distinctive dark, purplish color. (Did you know the color of your bruise can tell you something about the state of your injury?) So the moment you make contact with something, you have to act quickly. First, place an ice bag or a cold compress over the area to help reduce immediate swelling. The cold restricts your blood vessels, slowing the flow—and that will tone down the coloring of your bruise. Be sure to apply the cold compress ten minutes on, 20 minutes off, several times a day.
You don’t know when you got the bruise
What about those times when you happen to notice a bruise—and you have no idea how long it’s been there? “If the swelling is gone, you can use a warm compress—essentially promoting the opposite behavior of the cold compress,” Dr. Nader says. “At this stage, heat will prompt blood flow to the area, ushering away any pooled up blood in the area.”
One tactic to avoid, according to Dr. Nader: Pushing on a bruise to try and break up the blood beneath the skin. This is not proven effective and could result in additional soreness and bruising. (Yikes.)
How long bruises last
Generally, bruises clear up within five to seven days, she says, although the length depends on the severity of the bruise. If you notice pain and tenderness that won’t go away, see a doctor—you may have an underlying injury.
Got bruises that turn up all the time and you can’t figure out why? Again, see a doctor as it could be a sign of something more serious. And remember that any bruise to the head should be monitored closely—it might be a concussion. Next, read about the real reason why you bruise so easily.