Bruise: First aid
Medically reviewed on October 31, 2017
A bruise forms when a blow breaks blood vessels near your skin's surface, allowing a small amount of blood to leak into the tissues under your skin. The trapped blood may cause a bruise that at first looks like a black-and-blue mark and then changes color as it heals.
You can enhance bruise healing with a few simple techniques. Remember RICE, for rest, ice, compress and elevate:
- Rest the bruised area, if possible.
- Ice the bruise with an ice pack wrapped in a towel. Leave it in place for 10 to 20 minutes. Repeat several times a day for a day or two as needed.
- Compress the bruised area if it is swelling, using an elastic bandage. Don't make it too tight.
- Elevate the injured area.
If your skin isn't broken, you don't need a bandage. Consider taking an over-the-counter pain reliever if needed.
Consult your doctor if you:
- Notice very painful swelling in the bruised area
- Are still experiencing pain three days after a seemingly minor injury
- Have frequent, large or painful bruises, particularly if your bruises appear on your trunk, back or face, or seem to develop for no known reasons
- Have easy bruising and a history of significant bleeding, such as during a surgical procedure
- Notice a lump (hematoma) form over the bruise
- Are experiencing abnormal bleeding elsewhere, such as from your nose or gums
- Suddenly begin bruising, but have no history of bruising
- Have a family history of easy bruising or bleeding
These signs and symptoms may indicate a more serious problem, such as a blood-clotting problem or blood-related disease.