Bruise Management: How To Handle Getting Kicked In The Head Like I Was Last Weekend

Covering up bruises with makeup is every teenage girl’s right of passage, but now that I’m inching towards 30, I've noticed how they aren’t so easily dismissed.
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Publish date:
April 9, 2014
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health, bruises, medical stuff, arnica, concerts, enzymes, injuries, wellness

I don’t think bruises have been in fashion. Maybe when that whole Manic Pixie Dream Girl thing was a thing you
could skin a knee or bump an elbow and a cute little purple spot would
decorate your extremities, advertising how REAL you are (and awkward and
clumsy and other adorable foibles).

Whatever. I, for one, am a regular amount of
klutz and it has, to my knowledge, never been cute. I’m not terribly athletic and
my “living dangerously” is tantamount to eating a pint of ice cream and running
to catch the bus. Yet I generally sport at least a couple baby bruises on my
shins regularly.

Cut to Sable’s Big Night Out, catching Perfect Pussy at Mercury
Lounge last weekend, a feminist punk buzz band at a patently cleaned-up
post-hype NYC venue, like where 5-o’clock-shadowed tight-t-shirt-wearing music
journos see touring bands that next time they come to town will most likely be
double or triple the admission and at a much larger and obnoxious venue.

PP has
a pretty rough-and-tumblr reputation, so when the two friends I went with grabbed my hand to
snake our way to the very front of the stage, I was like, “ermmmm…” But looking
around at the inching-towards-30 crowd and considering NYC’s concert-going
reputation for staunch apathy, I thought it might be relatively well-behaved.
And it was for the most part, some pushing and shoving notwithstanding.

That
is, until the last song of their 20-minute set in which some dude, choosing to
turn his night from Rockin' to EPIC, apparently stage-dove into my head, his
boot connecting with my dome (I didn't see it coming). My two friends definitely caught some of that
hurt, but while they are seasoned in mosh manners, I am but a baby in a leather
jacket.

They helped me up and dusted themselves off, asking “Are you
OK, dude?” to which I sucked in my burgeoning tears to eek out a reluctant
“Yeahhhhhh.” The crowd around us helped my friend pick up the contents of her
purse, shining their lit iPhone screens at the ground. She picked up a
signature kelly green tube of Revlon lipstick, effectively flattened. IS
NOTHING SACRED, YOU HEATHENS?

Basically, without waxing poetical on the first major blow
to my face/head area as an adult: I went down--hard--I got up, picked up my things,
assessed that all my bodily fluids were intact, and basically quit the evening.
Shut it down, folks, SHUT IT DOWN. Meanwhile, I am sure that stage-diving dude
definitely had the night of his life, tweeting something like “Perfect Pussy--SO
F*CKING RAD BEST NIGHT EVR #HXC #suchpunk #socrowdsurf”

Upon getting home, I had about a three-inch egg growing on
the top of my head and a serious migraine. I popped whatever painkillers were
in my apartment (Advil--not, like, downing prescriptions) and lied down with an
ice pack on my head, lamenting how “Girls to the front!” isn’t so much a thing
anymore, replaced instead with Obamacare, which I still haven’t signed up
for. Living dangerously indeed.

Next morning, the previous night’s ouchies were in
medium-full vexation. Sleeping with the ice pack on my head was a good idea,
since the egg had subsided to a much flatter yet still raised spot. When
touching it, it smarted the way a normal bruise does, except had the strange
sensation like something hard was behind it, and it was mysteriously (but
perhaps fortunately?) lacking in that trademark eggplant color.

I also began to
notice other aches and minor bruises—on my thigh where I was smushed up against the
stage monitors, my right shoulder, and weirdly on the upper part of my
right cheekbone (another thankfully invisible one that still smarted to the
touch), plus a pretty stiff neck. Basically the right side of my body from the
shoulders up. Uncool.

After getting over the strange feeling of discovering new
injuries I hadn’t noticed the night before (I could’ve sworn I wasn’t
exhibiting any signs of a person concussed!), I took it upon myself to do some
bruise control.

Covering up bruises with makeup is every teenage girl’s
right of passage, evading the wrath of mom and dad with thick concealer and a
strategically worn neckerchief. You can use all the yellow-tinged stick
concealer in the world to effectively Wite-Out your boo-boos, but now that I’m
of the “inching towards 30” crowd and my body is going through
ch-ch-ch-changes, I notice how little bumps and bruises aren’t so easily
dismissed.

Aside from looking gnarly, medium-to-severe bruising can mess
with your health. What they are is the result of busted capillaries from some
blunt force trauma, when blood leaks out and pools in that area. It hurts when
you touch it because the nerve endings are sensing the buildup of pressure
from this blood pool party. A hormone, endothelin, is released from the
capillaries to constrict those blood vessels so you don’t bleed inside yourself
to death, and a temporary clot is formed. The reddish-purplish-greenish-turning-yellowish coloring is all the blood that’s trapped there as it’s being cleared
up by your body, like a push-broom sweeping all the Dixie cups from the
gymnasium floor after prom. Fun, right?

Now here’s why taking care and monitoring bruises is
important, all you MPDGs. As I was saying earlier about the hard-feeling egg on
my head with no visible contusion--if that hard feeling doesn’t go away, it
could mean that a hematoma has formed, and instead of clearing it out, your
body Berlin-walled it in and the only way to get rid of it is by going to a doc
to drain it. Now, I don’t know about you guys, but I’ve had a thing or two
medically drained before (with a big-ass needle, natch), and it EFFING SMARTS.

Other than the wall-in method, your body may also deposit calcium around the
area, causing the tender yet firm sensation. It’s basically dealing with the trauma
by building more bone on top of your bones, which while freaky enough to think
about, could limit your mobility depending on where it happens. Yikes.

My high school health class teacher once touted the virtues
of RICE: rest, ice, compression, elevation. Obviously, if you’re
nursing injuries, take it easy--no dirt bike rallies or muay thai.

Ice the site ASAP! The cold will repel the swelling and
inflammation of the area, as well as slow the blood flow to the area,
decreasing the size of the bruise. A towel-wrapped ice pack is best, but if all you have is a pack of frozen strawberries, as my pal Aaron croons in the 2008 iPod-shilling song, "Bruises," that'll DIY!

A cold pack will numb the pain a bit, but compressing, or wrapping, your wounded limb in an Ace bandage will also
aid with the swelling. If you can elevate the site of injury to above the
heart--like if it’s on your leg, lie down on your back with your legs resting on
a wall--it will also slow the blood flow to the area and decrease swelling.
Oddly, I learned that trick from a documentary on Hulu following the girls in
K-Pop group Kara as they danced their way to various injuries/fame/stardom.
Treat your wounds just like a K-Pop star!

In the meanwhile, you can use arnica gel to treat the
swelling and longevity of bruises. For pain, take acetaminophen, but avoid
blood-thinning painkillers like aspirin, ibuprofen, or Advil (oops), which can
prolong bleeding. After at least 24 hours, applying a heat pack for a few
minutes at a time will circulate blood flow to get all those deadbeat blood
cells to shove off.

FUN FACT: Eating pineapple alleviates bruising since the
digestive enzyme in it, bromelain, releases trapped fluids from injured tissue
because it breaks down those proteins that cause that.

When your bruise is on its way to recovery, which you’ll
note from the yucky jaundiced color it becomes, catching some rays will do it good.
UV light breaks down bilirubin, the product of hemoglobin breakdown, which
causes jaundicing. I’m not saying to lie out in a bikini slathered in Crisco; I
mean like 10 to 15 minutes a day of sunning a banged-up knee is sufficient.

I’m pretty happy as a clam, nomming on pineapple in the sun,
with my gradually deflating head-growth (I can’t really see it after a day or
two, but I can still feel it if I run my fingers across… shudder), but if you
find yourself in a similar scenario and things are NOT getting better or are in
fact becoming more hurty, do not hesitate to call a doctor. When it comes to
blood traffic, it’s literally a matter of life and death that you clear those
crucial paths before long if they continue to be clogged/hard-feeling/increasingly
painful.

Alternatively, if you think you’re just a klutz but bruises
appear spontaneously or you can’t remember how you got them, it
could possibly be a sign of an autoimmune disease or abnormal blood-clotting
platelets. I’m not a doctor, but a doctor is a doctor, and they can tell you much better than I if you’re just one of those frail and delicate dames whose ivory
pallor makes bruising more visible, or if indeed something weird is up with
your body that you otherwise paid no mind to.

I don't mean to get all WebMD on you but be safe, babies! And if you can’t always protect yourself,
try not to cry about it on the corner of Houston and Essex as you feverishly hail
for a cab during the Saturday night rush hour of responsible lushes getting
their drunk asses home from the bar. They will show you no pity, as they dangle
red Solo cups from the open passenger-side window of a cab, to which slapping it
out of their hands makes but for small comfort.