Bruising and arm pain

Although we hope that no one will have any ill effects from giving blood, occasionally bruising of the arm and some arm pain may develop.

Does it hurt to give blood?

Following needle insertion, you should be comfortable during your donation. If your arm hurts or feels sore while giving blood please alert a member of staff.

Will giving blood bruise my arm?

Occasionally, bruising of the arm may develop. The bruise may look dramatic and some people can find this worrying, especially if it appears away from the donation area. Bruises are usually harmless and will disappear with time and it is normal for them to spread out before fading.

If you do develop a bruise the following R.I.C.E advice may also help.

What if you can't find a suitable vein?

Although you may have been able to have blood tests taken easily at your doctors or the hospital, we use a larger needle which is in the vein for longer to obtain a full donation and this may mean your veins aren’t suitable for blood donation.

Sometimes it is necessary to advise donors that they should not become a blood donor or to no longer give blood. We would like to stress this decision is not taken lightly and is made after considering all factors involved. Thank you for giving up your time to come along. You could still support us by encouraging others to donate.

Why is my arm painful after giving blood?

If, during your donation, you informed staff of pain or discomfort in your donation arm, hand or fingers, this may be related to possible tendon/nerve injury. These are uncommon risks associated with venepuncture (when a needle is used to take blood from a vein). There is more information about this in our donor consent booklet.

We advise that you avoid heavy lifting and strenuous activity. Do not immobilise your arm as this could cause further complications – gentle exercise will aid your recovery.

If you experience any of the following please contact us, visit your GP or attend a walk-in centre to gain medical assistance as early as possible:

  • Stiffness, weakness or a dull ache in the arm.
  • Pain that gets significantly worse when you move the affected arm.
  • Severe or worsening pins and needles.
  • Severe or worsening swelling or the development of a lump in the arm.
  • Redness and/or inflammation of the donation arm.
  • Change of skin temperature or colour to your donation arm or hand.

 Treat your bruise with R.I.C.E

Rest – allow time for the arm to heal, avoid heavy lifting, for example at the gym or carrying heavy shopping. Light gentle movement is recommended. After 36 hours, return to normal activity.

Ice – This is most effective immediately for swelling of the bruise and surrounding area. Do not place directly onto the skin; use a cloth to act as a barrier to prevent freeze burns, e.g. pack of frozen vegetables or an ice pack.

Compression – pressing on the point where the needle was inserted.

Elevation – If possible, when resting elevate your arm on a pillow.

Treatment for the bruise is most effective whilst the bruise is still reddish, however after 36 hours heat in the form of a warm cloth can be applied to the bruise for approximately 10 minutes, 2-3 times a day. This can increase blood flow to the bruised area allowing the skin to reabsorb the bruise more quickly. Ultimately the bruise will fade in colour.

Further information

If you are worried or require further information you can obtain advice by:

  • ringing our donor helpline on 0300 123 23 23
  • calling the NHS helpline on 111
  • contacting your GP

Sign up today to be a blood donor