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Bumps, knocks and bruises

6-minute read

What are bumps, knocks and bruises?

Bumps, knocks and bruises are common injuries. Everyone gets them from time to time. They are generally easy to treat.

They can sometimes be very painful. The part of your body that is injured can be very tender.

What are the symptoms of bumps, knocks and bruises?

Bumps and knocks often happen to your joints like your elbows and knees. When your joints are injured they can become swollen. Sometimes they can have bruising as well.

CHECK YOUR SYMPTOMS — Use the Symptom Checker and find out if you need to seek medical help.

What causes bruises?

A bruise often appears after you have been knocked, bumped or pinched. A bruise can appear when you have fallen. It can also happen if you knock your body against something. You can get a bruise if you are hit by something hard like a stick or cricket ball.

A bruise happens when the tiny blood vessels under your skin are damaged. The bump or knock injures your blood vessels but does not break the skin. The blood leaks out of your damaged blood vessels and stays under your skin.

A purple or red mark appears on the part of the body where the bump or knock happened. This is where the blood has leaked just under the skin. This is called a bruise.

Sometimes a bruise can become a dark blue or dark purple colour. A bruise can change colour to yellow or green or light brown. This happens when the injury is healing.

It can take about 2 weeks for a bruise to go away.

When should I see my doctor?

Sometimes it is hard to tell whether a bump, knock or bruise is more serious. Swelling or pain can mean that you’ve broken a bone. If you are not sure how serious it is, get medical help.

You should see a doctor if there is:

  • intense pain
  • you can’t move the injured part
  • the injury is swelling and bruising very quickly
  • the injured body part doesn’t work properly

You should also see your doctor if:

  • you have a family history of bleeding disorders
  • you or your child seem to bruise more easily than other people
  • there are bruises all over your body
  • there is also bleeding, like frequent nosebleeds

FIND A HEALTH SERVICE — The Service Finder can help you find doctors, pharmacies, hospitals and other health services.

How are bumps, knocks and bruises treated?

Make sure you first check for broken bones and bleeding. These injuries may need an ambulance or doctor.

For a knock, bump or bruise, you can reduce the swelling and bruising by using the RICE method:

  • Rest the injured part.
  • Ice it with a cold pack or ice wrapped in a cloth. Do this for 15 to 20 minutes every 2 to 4 hours for 24 to 48 hours.
  • Compress the area with a bandage which is firm, but not tight.
  • Elevate the injured part. Put the injured area higher than the level of your heart. For example, put an injured arm or leg on a few pillows. Do not move your arm or leg if you think it might be broken.

Other things to do are:

  • Check to make sure there is no other injury.
  • Take over-the-counter pain medicine to ease the pain.
  • If the injury is on the head, get medical advice.

It is a good idea to learn first aid. You can find a first aid course in your area or online.

Can bumps, knocks and bruises be prevented?

Everyone bruises differently. Children sometimes get a lot of bumps and bruises. This is usually because they are more physically active.

Older people sometimes bruise easily. Their skin can be thin. They often have weaker blood vessels that are easily damaged by a knock or bump. This can cause bruises that can be quite large and dark in colour. Older people often get bruises on their arms.

To help prevent injuries, you can:

  • get rid of clutter and keep hallways clear
  • supervise children at all times
  • make sure your house and outdoor areas have good lighting
  • always mop up any spills
  • wear protective sports gear such as shin, elbow and knee guards

It’s a good idea to talk to your doctor or pharmacist about the medicines you’re taking. These can sometimes affect your balance. Have your hearing and vision checked regularly.

ASK YOUR DOCTOR — Preparing for an appointment? Use the Question Builder for general tips on what to ask your GP or specialist.

Complications of bumps, knocks and bruises

Some people bruise a lot. This may be because of a medication you are taking. Medicines such as aspirin and anticoagulants (blood thinners) make you more likely to bruise.

In very rare cases, easy bruising can be a sign of a more serious medical problem. It could be a symptom of a blood-clotting problem or blood disease. See a doctor if you’re concerned about bruising.

Sometimes bumps or bruises can be caused deliberately (on purpose). If your bruises that were not caused by an accident, you should get help. You can talk to your doctor, community nurse, emergency department or school nurse.

Resources and support

If you are concerned about bruising, call healthdirect on 1800 022 222 (known as NURSE-ON-CALL in Victoria) to discuss your concerns with a registered nurse.

Learn more here about the development and quality assurance of healthdirect content.

Last reviewed: December 2023

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