A very athletic (but non-ninja) friend called me on the weekend searching for a fast cure for bruising. She had taken a bad tumble from her bicycle the week before she was to compete in a big triathlon. She had bad bruising developing behind her knee that covered most of the back of her knee and part of her thigh. With some wisdom from both the Chinese and western herbal medicine worlds, the bruising didn’t get anywhere near “as ugly as she had expected” and she’s been back on the bike painlessly getting her last training in before the big event this weekend.
My top 5 remedies for bruising that all martial artists (and anyone else) need to know:
- Ice. But don’t overdo it. Ice can be used in the first 24-48 hours of an injury occurring. If the injury feels hot, looks red and is continuing to swell, you can apply ice. Compression bandaging is useful at this time too. There is no need for ice once these symptoms have stopped.
- Arnica. Arnica is known as ‘the herb for bruising’ in western herbal medicine. I like the Sunspirit Arnica Ointment, which can be smeared over the injured body part (e.g. knee or ankle) and then wrapped with gladwrap and left over night. It contains a few other herbs to aid healing and give some pain relief. Arnica can also do wonders for bruising when taken internally as a homeopathic remedy. This gives you a way to tackle the bruising from the inside while you are busy addressing the local area of the trauma.
- Liniment. Traditional Chinese Medicine offers us many liniments that lay claim to reducing bruising. The most famous of these amongst martial artists is ‘Dit Da Jow’ or ‘Hit Medicine’. Some of my favourites that are more easily available are Zheng Gu Shui and Po Sum On. Liniment needs to be applied to the local bruise area every few hours, throughout the days following the injury. The herbs used in these liniments aim to promote blood circulation and thus disperse the blood that has stagnated.
- Rubbing. Yes, we can rub the bruise out. Sounds painful, and it can be, but it works a treat. You need to take some of the liniment referred to above and moisten the bruised area. Then place your thumb or fingers in the centre of the bruise, apply deep pressure and massage towards the outside of the bruise. You can use a deep, flicking movement to do this. We are aiming to move the stagnant blood away from the site of the trauma. The bruise will change colour and intensity fairly quickly with this technique. A note of caution. Rubbing out a bruise may not be suitable on acute serious injuries.
- Heat. So it’s ice that we use first of all, and then later we apply heat. Ice is used to stop the swelling and bruise developing, and then we can go straight into applying a heat pack to reinvigorate blood circulation. The idea is to slap on some liniment and apply your heat pack on top. This will aid circulation to the area and the warmth will prepare the bruise nicely to be rubbed out.
A note for people who bruise easily. If you are prone to bruising with light touch or without recollection of a trauma it may indicate that you have an underlying condition affecting your blood clotting or blood vessels. Sometimes medications and even supplements (e.g. fish oil) or herbal medicines (e.g. ginkgo biloba) can contribute to thinning of the blood. A tendency to easy bruising should be discussed with your acupuncturist, herbalist or general practitioner.
To book an appointment at the clinic or further information on Chinese Medicine contact Dr Sarah George (Acupuncture). Sarah is a practitioner of acupuncture (AHPRA registered), massage therapy and natural health.