How can I reduce the time to clear bruising and swelling?
November 16, 2010 12:48 PM   Subscribe

What techniques, practices, and over the counter items are useful in reducing the time to clear bruising and, to a lesser extent, swelling?

I am about to have a large portion of my face undergo a procedure which will leave me with swelling and bruising. Even though I would like to clear this up as soon as possible. I think I have everything that looked reputable under various searches starting off of site:gov:

The Arnica looks iffy. Bromelain, grape seed extract, and Vitamin K gel all seem to be good for bruising.

Cold packs, a chillow, and a bedrest pillow should keep the swelling down. I won't be able to do aspirin for a while.

Time and patience are obviously factors.

What have I missed?
posted by adipocere to Health & Fitness (16 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I've tried Arnica sprays in the past & didn't really see any results. Frozen bags of peas work great; they mold to the area in question & can be refrozen/used again when they melt.
posted by muirne81 at 12:55 PM on November 16, 2010

Not aspirin - you want an NSAID (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory) like ibuprofen or naproxin (aka Aleve in the US). If you are having this procedure done through a medical practice, they should be able to prescribe something.
posted by muddgirl at 12:57 PM on November 16, 2010

Arnica can be helpful as an embrocation, as long as it's in a chemically active concentration. In other words, don't get homeopathic arnica products, which don't actually have any arnica in them.
posted by Sidhedevil at 12:57 PM on November 16, 2010

There are some useful pieces of advice if you google for getting rid of hickeys. The piece of advice that I found the most useful was to "comb out" the bruise if it's someplace where you can access it. That is, use a comb and gradually stroke it with some pressure to try to get the blood to go back where it's supposed to or dissipate.
posted by jessamyn at 12:58 PM on November 16, 2010

Hirudoid Cream (active ingredient Heparinoid) has helped me with post-surgical bruising - just don't put directly on an open wound.
posted by Kerasia at 1:02 PM on November 16, 2010

It's difficult for me to say because all of my experience has been with non-facial, non-surgical bruising, so run this by your doctors, but here's what works for me:

Ice for the first 24 hours, minimizes the bruising
After that, I don't use ice, but I use gentle massage (as recommended by Jessamyn)
posted by the young rope-rider at 1:18 PM on November 16, 2010

This may only be relevant to traumatic bruising, not surgical. But when my daughter was 14 months old and had a permanent goosegg on her forehead from oopsies in learning to walk, our pediatrician said that the best way to minimize bruising was actually NOT to put ice on it. She said that the swelling clamped down the little blood vessels and minimized bleeding into the area, allowing time for the broken vessels to clot off before the swelling went down. Our experience seemed to confirm this.
posted by KathrynT at 1:26 PM on November 16, 2010

Don't forget to drink plenty of water. Don't go bananas, but an extra 20 oz early and another towards nighttime. (Not right before bed, so you don't have to wake up to urinate.)
posted by Citrus at 1:33 PM on November 16, 2010

I have had good luck with arnica, but just for bruises on my arms and legs. It sometimes works like magic and then sometimes nothing.
posted by chocolatetiara at 1:37 PM on November 16, 2010

I don't know if it is considered "old wives' tale" or not, but I have always used petroleum jelly (Vaseline) on bruises.
posted by Drasher at 3:19 PM on November 16, 2010

A friend had sinus surgery and took homeopathic arnica, at her surgeon's suggestion, and had virtually no swelling and none of the black eye problem. I use arnica gel on any area I think might bruise (i.e. after a fall) and see little redness or swelling when I do.
posted by Riverine at 3:37 PM on November 16, 2010

Don't waste money on homeopathic arnica. I had serious surgery following an accident, and the naturopathic doctor friend I was living with gave me arnica. I pretended to take it every time, but just threw it away. As my surgery bruising dissipated quickly, she attributed it all to the "power of arnica." Of course, since there was no actual arnica in the arnica she was giving me, there was little point in not just taking the pills.

So just because someone took a sugar pill and their bruising was lessened in some way doesn't mean that their bruising wouldn't have resolved itself without any sugar pills.

As for anything topical, I think anything that makes you rub it on your skin (and therefore the tissue beneath) helps dissipate the bruise. jessamyn's suggestion is in line with that, just minus the cream.
posted by MonsieurBon at 3:59 PM on November 16, 2010

Not aspirin - you want an NSAID (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory) like ibuprofen or naproxin (aka Aleve in the US).

Aspirin is a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory too. OP, since you can't take aspirin for some reason make sure that those reasons don't also apply to other medications like ibuprofen. Any medications you take, even OTC ones, need to be discussed with your doctor.

MobsieurBon is correct, anything topical may work because of the rubbing (helps clear the accumulated blood) not because of any special ingredient. And when something works magically sometimes and not others that's a really clear indication that it's not actually working at all and your body is just healing in it's own time. So skip all the arnica and whatever.

Because you'll have surgical bruising which may be extensive and may have all kinds of healing injuries underneath, please talk to your doctor about this instead of taking advice from random internet strangers. Rubbing or icing the area may be totally the wrong thing to do in your case, none of us know. Doing the wrong thing could significantly *slow* the healing here, the total opposite of what you want.
posted by shelleycat at 4:32 PM on November 16, 2010

My guess is that for the same reason you can't use aspirin you shouldn't use naproxen/aleve or ibuprofen. All are NSAID as shellycat notes. They all reduce blood clotting. Don't take any of them without consulting your MD. Not really an answer to your question but if it's dangerous to take aspirin it's probably dangerous to take other NSAIDs.
posted by Carbolic at 5:37 PM on November 16, 2010

Massage therapist here. Last time I looked, there was insufficient evidence to recommend arnica as a treatment if you swallow it. I've heard anecdotally that arnica applied topically can help. However, this is not a recommendation, YMMV etc.

There is a massage technique called lymphatic drainage that may help. It is useful for post-surgery swelling and is used to reduce limb swelling in women who have had lymph nodes removed from the armpit as part of a treatment for breast cancer.

It could be worthwhile discussing this with your surgeon/doctor.

The treatment(s) involve repetitive, but light, "pumping" of various lymph nodes around the body to stimulate the flow of lymph (the lymph system is like a drain system: it collects the fluid that naturally leaks out of blood capillaries, and returns it, via a system of tubes and nodes, to the bloodstream. The liver, spleen and kidneys then take over the task of filtering out cellular debris, pathogens, and so on.)
posted by flutable at 4:53 PM on November 20, 2010

I had talked with the doctor prior to this question, he was fairly ambivalent about topical arnica. It turns out that aspirin afterward was okay, just not before.

My head did indeed swell up like a basketball, to a comical extent, starting at half a centimeter of swelling at the edges and becoming even more later. I could hardly open my eyes or my mouth.

I decided to try out different techniques on different patches of my face. The spot that had vitamin K gel did reasonably well, but the arnica cream did nothing. I looked more carefully at the arnica cream bottle after becoming suspicious and researching some of the homeopathy lingo and found that I had inadvertently bought the useless variety, so that was not conclusive. Jessamyn's combing method worked reasonably well once I was able to get down to the skin, since combing through layers of scab would be not too smart.

What was, rather surprisingly, most effective for the swelling, though not the bruising, was walking. Specifically, covering my face in Aquaphor to protect from the cold and walking four miles at a moderate pace. My face was visibly less swollen after each walk. So I guess that counts as lymphatic massage, or at least lymphatic pumping.

I'll try a non-homeopathic arnica cream the next time I have to do this.
posted by adipocere at 10:46 AM on February 2, 2011

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