How to make bruises heal faster?

Bruising. We've all experienced it and will again in the future. But what really happens during the bruising process and how can we optimize your recovery and minimize pain?

This HealFast Blog post will first dive into the medical background behind bruising and then what you can do to heal faster.

Bruising – why it happens?

Bruising, how to heal faster with Bromelain

Bruising is common whether, from medical procedures, surgeries, sports injuries, or that nasty toe-stubbing on the bedpost that haunts your dreams, we all get them!

And in all cases, they are part of the body's healing response process that is relatively consistent across all wounds and can be optimized for faster healing if you know how they work.

What is a bruise?

A contusion, which is the medical word for a “bruise”, is a skin discoloration that results from blood vessels leaking under the skin after trauma. Bruises can occur after:

  • Vigorous exercise, such as athletics, contact sports, or weight lifting.

  • Surgery or medical procedures where blood vessels and tissues are disrupted.

  • Any kind of trauma, particularly blunt trauma can damage blood vessels which result in a bruise.

Why do bruises change color?

Generally, the whole process of bruise healing takes about 2-3 weeks. During this time, a contusion goes through several predictable changes that allow us to estimate its age via its color.

  • Brand new bruises appear red due to fresh blood that has leaked from the blood vessels

  • After several days, the bruise will turn blue/purple. This occurs as tissue swelling around the injury site causes oxygen to get cut off. When there is no oxygen, hemoglobin (that carry iron and oxygen in the blood) changes color from red to blue, causing a mainly purple color.

  • Around 5-7 days, hemoglobin begins to break down resulting in a greenish-yellow color.

  • Finally, around 8-14 days, the bruise begins to get reabsorbed by the tissue and turns yellow or brown.

Bruise changes color over time, HealFast

Image Source: WebMD

How to treat a Bruise?

It’s important to know how bruises work so you can best prepare to treat them for optimal recovery.

To control pain, bleeding, and inflammation, keep the muscle in a gentle stretch position and remember treating a bruise is most effective right after the injury or intervention.

The basics of bruise healing, follow the RICE system:

  • Rest. Protect the injured area from further harm. Consider protective devices (crutches, sling, brace, etc.) as needed.

  • Ice*

  • Compression. Lightly wrap the injured area in a soft bandage or ace wrap to reduce swelling and further bleeding into the site.

  • Elevation. Raise it to a level above the heart. This will decrease swelling in the extremity by allowing fluids to drain with gravity away from the injury site.

Regarding ice usage, it is best used during the initial trauma and applied to the area for 20-30 minutes to decrease inflammation, reduce swelling, and constrict the blood vessels from further leakage. However, after the initial 36-48 hours, you should consider using warmth to increase the blood flow in the area to help resorb the accumulated blood.

After a surgical intervention, your doctor may give you non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen or Tylenol for pain relief.

As with any pain medication, whether doctor prescribed or self-administered, take only enough to take the edge off the pain, but not erase it completely. Pain serves as an important signal telling you when not to push yourself.

What to watch out for:

  • If you are taking blood-thinning medication, bruising may be more common

  • Frequent or unexplained bruises, especially if accompanied by frequent nosebleeds or bleeding gums may indicate a bleeding disorder or overdose of blood-thinning medication

Reduce pain and boost healing with Bromelain

There is mounting evidence supporting the use of bromelain to improve healing times associated with bruises, contusions, and hematoma recovery.

One placebo-controlled study of 146 boxers with bruises on the face and hematomas on the orbits, lips, ears, chest, and arms; found a complete clearing of bruises in 78% of the group treated with bromelain, compared to 3% of the placebo group. [1] Remarkably, this was seen at time = 4 days, compared to the baseline expected recovery timeline of a week or more.

Other studies show that orally administered bromelain reduced edema, bruising, pain, and healing times following trauma and surgical procedures. Bromelain’s pain reduction effects are probably related to its potent anti-inflammatory, anti-edema, and fibrinolytic properties.

In another clinical study, patients with long bone fractures were administered bromelain, which led to less post-operative swelling and ultimately the consumption of fewer analgesics (heavy pain meds) compared to patients given a placebo.

Aside from its documented anti-inflammatory activity, bromelain is a favorite of Plastic Surgeons because of its ability to increase the resorption rate of hematomas. Oral bromelain, given at the time of hematoma results in significantly faster resolution in the treatment group than seen in control groups.

The way Bromelain works is complicated but well documented

I tend to be a skeptic. Unless you show me the proof and working mechanism, I am not going to buy the “it works because it works” rhetoric. For those of you who are like me, here is the proposed mechanism for how Bromelain works with references below for additional reading.