Common Medical Conditions

Sprains and Bruises

Written by
Dr. Sneha Kannan
and medically reviewed by Dr. Shakti A. Goel

Published on Apr 25, 2019 and last reviewed on Jun 08, 2019   -  4 min read

Abstract

Abstract

A sprain is caused due to stretching or tearing of ligaments, which are fibrous tissues that connect bones together in a joint like the ankle,A bruise is the discoloration of the skin caused due to an injury.

Sprains and Bruises

What Is a Bruise?

A bruise is the discoloration of the skin caused due to an injury. Because of an injury, blood vessels get damaged, and blood from the damaged vessels gets collected near the surface of the skin. The different types of bruises are:

  • Subcutaneous - Bruising under the skin.

  • Intramuscular - Bruising under the muscles.

  • Periosteal - Bruising around the bone.

What Is a Sprain?

A sprain is caused due to stretching or tearing of ligaments, which are fibrous tissues that connect bones together in a joint like the ankle. A sprain is usually accompanied by bruising, as the injury also damages the blood vessels near the joint causing bluish discoloration of the skin. An ankle sprain is the most common sports injury. The grades for sprains are:

  • Grade 1 - Mild tenderness, swelling, and bruising because of stretching or tearing of the ligament.

  • Grade 2 - Moderate pain, swelling, and bruising because of incomplete tear of the ligament.

  • Grade 3 - Severe swelling and bruise because of a complete tear of the ligament.

It is often difficult to differentiate a sprain from a strain. As the symptoms are the same for both, the only difference is a strain is caused by injury to the muscles or fibrous tissue that connects a muscle to the bone (tendons).

What Are the Causes of a Bruise and Sprain?

Usually, the sprained joint will have some bruising around it. The causes of a sprain are:

  1. Sports injuries.

  2. Walking on an uneven surface.

  3. Landing the wrong way after a jump.

  4. Vigorous exercise.

  5. Fall.

  6. Poor flexibility.

  7. Overexertion.

  8. Lifting heavy objects.

  9. Poor posture.

Apart from these causes, bruising is also seen in patients with bleeding or clotting disorders, leukemia, deep vein thrombosis (DVT), concussions, varicose veins, and people on blood thinners (Heparin and Warfarin).

What Are the Symptoms of a Bruise and Sprain?

The symptoms associated with bruising depend on the cause. Pain and bluish discoloration of the skin are the symptoms seen. As the bruise heals, it can change into the following colors:

  • Red - A bruise is red initially due to the collection of oxygen-rich blood underneath the skin.

  • Blue or purple or black - After a couple of days, it changes to blue or blackish as the blood loses oxygen.

  • Yellow or green - After 5 to 10 days, as hemoglobin is broken down and bilirubin and biliverdin are produced, it turns yellowish green.

  • Yellowish-brown - After a couple of weeks, it will turn light brown in color.

Some of the common symptoms of a sprain are:

  • Pain.

  • Inflammation.

  • Bruising.

  • Stiffness.

  • Weakness.

  • Restricted movement of the affected joint.

How Are Bruise and Sprain Treated at Home?

First aid for muscle sprain and bruise is done with rest, ice, compression, and elevation (RICE).

  • Rest - Avoid using the joint or body part that is injured for some time, but too much rest can make the muscle week and can prolong healing.

  • Ice - Immediately after an injury, apply ice. Wrap the ice in a towel and place it on the area for 20 minutes, and keep repeating this every hour. This will bring down the swelling.

  • Compression - To reduce the swelling further, cover the area loosely with a bandage. Do not tie it very tight, as it might stop the blood circulation to the area.

  • Elevation - Keep the injured area raised above the level of your heart.

Other measures include:

  • Use pain medicine after consulting your doctor.

  • Apply cold packs to the area to reduce swelling. Heat may help to reduce pain in later stages.

  • Always stretch and warm up before sports to prevent injury.

When to worry about a bruise or sprain

As bruises are a surface injury, they do not need medical attention. But sometimes it can be due to some serious underlying condition. Consult your doctor immediately in the following situations:

  • Numbness in the injured arms or legs.

  • Loss of function of the joint, limb, or muscle.

  • If the discoloration keeps growing in size.

  • If it lasts for more than 2 weeks.

  • If it recurs in the same place.

  • If it was caused due to head or neck injury.

  • If your vision is affected.

Home treatments may be used for mild to moderate sprain, but in the following cases, get immediate medical attention:

  • If the area is still paining after a week.

  • If the area is numb.

  • If you cannot use the injured joint.

  • If there is bleeding from the injury.

How to Prevent Bruises and Sprains?

  • Wear protective gears while playing contact sports.

  • Avoid slippery surface.

  • Keep floors uncluttered.

  • Wear well-fitting shoes.

  • If you are on blood thinners, consult your doctor to adjust your medications to prevent bruising.

  • To prevent sprain, maintain proper posture, stretch properly before playing, and avoid lifting heavy objects.

Mild sprains and bruises may get better with the help of home remedies in about a couple of weeks. If your symptoms are getting worse, or if you see spontaneous bruising without any injury, consult your doctor immediately.

Last reviewed at:
08 Jun 2019  -  4 min read

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