Things You Can Do To Help Bruises Heal Faster

What's black and blue and hurts all over? Whether you've sprained your ankle walking down steps, received an accidental elbow to the eye during a pickup basketball game, or bumped into something in the dark (or broad daylight...shout out to our clumsy readers), bruises are just a fact of life. But that doesn't make them any less painful and unsightly.

According to the Cleveland Clinic, a bruise happens when a skin or tissue injury damages the blood vessels under our skin, causing them to leak. A pool of blood forms under the skin and appears as black, blue, purple or yellow discoloration. Of course, bruises will go away on their own, but depending on the kind of bruise you're dealing with, some may take longer to fade than others. If your bruise is sore, or you're just sick of watching it transform every day, there are a few things you can do to help your bruises heal faster.

Using arnica to speed up the healing process

Arnica is an herb in the sunflower family. The first written record of arnica being used as a medicinal herb dates back to the middle ages, but it really picked up traction in the 18th century when it became the focus of numerous dissertations. It became widely recognized as an herb that could speed the healing process at an impressive rate. A 2021 review published in Frontiers in Surgery revealed that arnica helped mitigate excessive bruising after surgeries compared to a placebo.

Arnica works by stimulating tissues and exciting immunological mediators like white blood cells –- our bodies' little soldiers that help us heal from injury and illness. It is best applied when the skin is unbroken and there is tissue trauma like a bruise or a sprain. You can easily find an arnica salve, but if you want to get a little more hands-on, you can infuse a carrier oil of your choice with arnica and keep it in your personal pharmacy. While the jury is still out on whether or not arnica can help with pain, there is plenty of evidence to suggest that it is helpful in quickly reducing bruising.

Other ways to treat a bruise

Unfortunately, there's not much you can do to make bruises magically disappear completely. Those little buggers seem to work on their own time. But there are a couple of practices you should implement when you get a bad bruise to ensure a smooth healing process with as little pain as possible.

According to the Cleveland Clinic, after an injury it's best to rest and elevate the affected area to reduce swelling and relieve pain. For the next 48 hours or so, ice the area for 15 minutes at a time. After the first couple of days, start applying heat to the bruise throughout the day via a heating pad or hot water bottle. For pain relief, if you're okay with taking over-the-counter pain medication, start with acetaminophen like Tylenol (per Gizmodo). Bruises are a bother, but by following these steps you can help your body do its best work.