Today is Tuesday, June 18, 2013.
The medical term for a bruise is "contusion." It is the result of capillaries and venules (very small blood vessels) breaking and allowing blood to seep into the surrounding tissues under the skin, due to blunt force trauma, such as surgery, car accidents, falls, and collisions with furniture, etc. Bruises can be classified as light, moderate, or severe, depending on how much tissue is involved.
For light bruises the best treatment is RICE (rest, ice, compression, elevation), painkillers such as Tylenol, and, later in recovery, light stretching exercises. Putting ice on bruises right away helps to reduce swelling by restricting blood flow to the immediate area, thus preventing more internal bleeding. When you elevate an area, it needs to be above your heart, if possible. Very gentle massage the area and applying heat may encourage blood flow and relieve pain.
It can take months for a bruise to fade, but most last about two weeks. Typically, a bruise will start off a reddish color, and then turn bluish-purple and then
greenish-yellow before returning to normal.
I have always bruised fairly easily, but now that I'm taking a blood thinner, I bruise at the drop of a hat, so it is no surprise that my body is covered with bruises after my car accident. The largest bruise is on my abdomen, where my body hit the steering wheel. The bruise on my right hand and right knee may be from the airbags. I have some bruises on the back of my left leg and on my lower back, also on the left side. The bruise on my hand did swell quite a bit, and the ambulance guys put an ice pack on the hand right away, so the swelling went down before I left the hospital.
A friend of mine gave me a very gentle massage the other day to help with blood flow and make sure the muscles were relaxed. The masseuse commented that my body was pretty supple for having been in a car accident, which I took to be very good news.
My friends have been recommending arnica cream or gel for the bruises, and I think I will try that, this time. I do have some arnica pills at home, as well. Arnica montana has been used medicinally for centuries in liniment and ointment preparations for strains, sprains, and bruises. The Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center has reported that clinical trials "suggest benefits of arnica for osteoarthritis and reduction in postoperative swelling and pain."
Arnica contains the toxin helenalin, which can be poisonous if large amounts of the plant are eaten, and contact with the plant can also cause skin irritation. However, people don't typically handle the plant or ingest it, and homeopathic preparations of Arnica 24X dilution or more are not toxic. :-)