6

My parents always told me to rub firmly directly after I bruised myself, say after a hit with a blunt object (without damage to the skin). The explanation would be that this helps against haematomas and makes the bruise heal faster. The habit of doing so has become second nature to me and I see many other people with the same habit.

I'm not a physician and I can't make much sense of the explanation. Rethinking it now, I would rather suspect that rubbing makes it worse, because it could add further damage to the already torn tissue. But rubbing it "feels" better - which can of course be a placebo.

My question about an already formed haematoma, but about the moment directly after the bruising.

  • I assume the theory is that the pressure reduces the flow of blood into the hematoma. – Nate Eldredge Jul 26 '14 at 14:54
  • That would be the case for pressure, but I think the point of rubbing would maybe increase dissipation and make absorption easier? – Turion Jul 27 '14 at 16:15
  • People I think rub bruises to help distract from the pain by activating different sensory fibres so that the afferent input from pain fibres is diminished. – HappySpoon Jul 28 '14 at 8:05
10

First things first: a bruise (layman's term) is a type of hematoma (medical term), by definition.1

Rubbing a bruise is not a part of the standard protocol for treating hematomas. The standard is RICE, which stands for Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation.2

Several sources suggest that rubbing and other forms of massage in general may actually contribute to tissue damage.

See "Hepatic Hematoma after Deep Tissue Massage" in The New England Journal of Medicine, "Massive Haematoma from Digital Massage in an Anticoagulated Patient: A Case Report" in Singapore Medical Journal, and "Haematoma Testes due to Traditional Massage in a Neonate," in Tropical Doctor. 3,4,5,6

  1. From Wikipedia: "A bruise (layman's term), also called a contusion (medical term), is a type of hematoma of tissue in which capillaries and sometimes venules are damaged by trauma, allowing blood to seep, hemorrhage, or extravasate into the surrounding interstitial tissues."
  2. www.uhs.wisc.edu/health-topics/muscles-and-bone/rice.shtml
  3. Ernst, E. “The Safety of Massage Therapy.” Rheumatology (Oxford, England) 42, no. 9 (September 2003): 1101–6.
  4. Trotter, J. F. “Hepatic Hematoma after Deep Tissue Massage.” The New England Journal of Medicine 341, no. 26 (December 23, 1999): 2019–20.
  5. Yeo, T. C., M. H. Choo, and M. B. Tay. “Massive Haematoma from Digital Massage in an Anticoagulated Patient: A Case Report.” Singapore Medical Journal 35, no. 3 (June 1994): 319–20.
  6. Ram, S. P., K. Kyaw, and A. R. Noor. “Haematoma Testes due to Traditional Massage in a Neonate.” Tropical Doctor 24, no. 2 (April 1994): 81–82.

Please note that this answer does not constitute medical advice. It is only meant to summarize published research related to the original claim and limited to the cited sources. Consult your physician about what these results may mean for your health.

  • Ah sorry, not being a native speaker, I thought that "bruise" also refers to the act of obtaining one, as in hitting a blunt object. – Turion Jul 27 '14 at 16:15
  • 2
    Not a problem. The answer applies just the same. You are not far off the mark on the meaning: the word "bruise" comes from Old English brȳsan 'crush, injure or damage with a blow.' (from the Google Etymology Dictionary) – denten Jul 27 '14 at 16:36
  • Bruising may be a form of haematoma, but not all haematomas are bruises. Usually bruises are superficial small haematomas. – HappySpoon Jul 28 '14 at 8:04
  • Edited to clarify as per @HappySpoon suggestion. – denten Jul 28 '14 at 15:43
  • This doesn't answer the question. That's is no evidence here about whether rubbing a bruise reduces the time taken to heal. – Oddthinking Aug 31 '15 at 23:16

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