How to Treat a Bruise

Girl with a bruised knee

Bruise treatment is more art than science. Bruises are those black and blue marks you get after you take a punch or a line drive to the face. A bruise is a collection of blood under the surface of the skin from tiny, damaged blood vessels in the tissues.

Bruises turn colors in a fairly predictable way. Right after the injury, a bruise is red and looks inflamed.

It's followed by a dark blue discoloration (this is when it's usually referred to as "black and blue"). Eventually, the bruise will turn purple, then yellow and finally, it will fade. Bruise marks can last several weeks.


  1. As soon as the injury happens, follow RICE — Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation — for the first 24 to 48 hours. Remember not to keep ice on the injury for more than 15 to 20 minutes at a time. It is possible to get frostbite from an ice pack if it's left in place for too long.
  2. After the first day or two, switch from ice to heat (still no longer than 20 minutes at a time). Continue to elevate the injury when convenient. Compression is probably not helpful at this point.
  3. Acetaminophen or ibuprofen are good for the pain. Ibuprofen is a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID). It may help with the inflammation more than acetaminophen, but either is acceptable.


  • These steps are the most common suggestions by physicians to treat minor bruises, but there is very little research on bruise treatment. In most cases, you could also do absolutely nothing and the bruise will heal just fine.
  • If you seem to bruise more easily than others your age and gender, you may want to see your doctor. Excessive bruising can be a symptom of anemia, a medical condition from a lack of iron in the blood. To keep your iron levels up, eat plenty of green, leafy veggies.
  • Some alternative medicine folks suggest using vitamin K, vitamin C or even parsley for treating bruises.