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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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.

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. 

perfect pussy, meredith

A frenzied snap of frontwoman, Meredith Graves: a vision in leopard print, a force with a microphone.

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”

#FallenDiva

#FallenDiva

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. 

Shoulder Bruise

Three-days old and already jaundicing around the edges.

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.

Leg Bruise

Polka dots, just in time for spring trends!

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.

Ugh.

Ugh.

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.