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HomeHealth articlesbone bruiseWhat Are Bone Bruises and How Are they Treated?

Bone Bruises - Causes, Symptoms, Diagnosis, and Treatment

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A bruise is commonly thought of as a black-and-blue mark on the skin. Read below to get more details.

Medically reviewed by

Dr. Anuj Nigam

Published At December 14, 2022
Reviewed AtJuly 12, 2023

Introduction

A bone contusion is also known as a bone bruise. It occurs when minor damage to the surface of a bone occurs. As blood and other fluids accumulate, coloring occurs. On the other hand, a fracture occurs when a deeper portion of bone is damaged. Any bone can be bruised, but those that are close to the skin's surface are more likely to do so.

What Does a Bone Bruise Feel Like?

If the skin appears black, blue, or purple, it is simple to assume it is an ordinary bruise. However, the harm could be more serious. The common signs and symptoms seen are as follows:

  • Stiffness.

  • Swelling of the joint.

  • Discomfort.

  • Pain that lasts longer than a typical bruise is a sign of a bone bruise.

  • Having difficulty using an injured joint.

  • A knee bruise can result in an accumulation of fluid on the knee, which can be unpleasant.

  • Damage to neighboring ligaments may also be present, depending on how the accident occurred.

  • The duration of a bone bruise might range from a few days to several months.

What Are the Risk Factors Behind Bone Bruises?

Bone bruises are a regular occurrence and can happen to anyone. The bones in the knees and heels are the ones that are most likely to bruise. The factors that may result in such bruises are:

  • A direct blow to the bone, such as a fall, an accident, or a bump during a sporting event, causes a bone bruise.

  • If the ankle or wrist gets twisted, one might potentially bruise the bone.

  • If there are one or more of the following, one may be more prone to bone bruises:

  • Participation and injuries from high-impact sports.

  • The required protective equipment is not worn.

  • The job necessitates a lot of physical exertion.

  • Participating in a physically difficult activity.

  • Grinding of bone surfaces against each other causes bruising in people with osteoarthritis. Injections of corticosteroids into a joint are sometimes used to treat arthritis. Corticosteroid injections can sometimes produce bone bruising, which is unusual.

When Should One See the Doctor?

It is difficult to identify if a bone bruise is related to a more serious disease that requires care.

Getting a doctor's opinion is always a good idea.

If any of the following occur, seek medical help right away:

  • The swelling will not subside.

  • The swelling is worsening.

  • The agony is worsening, and over-the-counter pain medicines are not doing much to help.

  • Blue, chilly, and numb patches appear on the body, such as the fingers and toes. Those signs and symptoms could point to a serious bone bruise. A bone bruise is not always the only symptom of an injury. It is also possible to have a fracture or a break. A bone bruise on the knee could indicate a ligament tear. A particularly severe bone bruise can obstruct blood flow.

This is uncommon; however, it might result in the death of a portion of the bone.

When a bone dies, the damage it causes is permanent. Hence, it is crucial to see a doctor and report if the symptoms do not subside.

How Are Bone Bruises Diagnosed?

Based on the symptoms and a physical examination, the doctor will most likely be able to diagnose a bone bruise. If a bone injury is suspected, an X-ray can help identify if there is a fracture or break, but it will not help detect a bone bruise. Only an MRI scan can determine whether or not a person has a bone bruise.

How Are Bone Bruises Treated?

The following treatment modalities are beneficial in the case of bone bruises:

  • The doctor may recommend rest, ice, and pain medicines for a mild bone bruise.

  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medicines, such as Aleve or Ibuprofen, may be recommended.

  • Elevate the leg or foot if the bone bruise is in the leg or foot to help with swelling.

  • Application of ice to the injured site for 15 to 20 minutes many times a day.

  • Direct ice application to the skin is not advisable.

  • Use a towel or an ice pack to relieve the pain.

  • Certain physical activities and sports may also need to be avoided until the patient fully recovers.

  • Bone injuries that are very small can start to heal within a few weeks.

  • The most severe ones may take several months to recover.

  • A joint injury may necessitate using a brace to keep the joint motionless while it heals.

  • If a brace, splint, or crutches are required, follow the doctor's instructions and follow up as directed.

  • If a person smokes, bone injuries may take longer to heal.

Depending upon the injury site and severity, a physical therapist may be able to demonstrate how to move the affected joint to avoid further injury. If the damage does not heal, additional diagnostic tests may be required.

What Is the Prognosis?

It may be necessary to rest, but it is critical to allow the bone to mend completely. Returning to normal activities too soon can aggravate the situation. Although recovery times vary greatly, it normally takes a few months to recover fully. The majority of the time, there are no long-term issues. Unless there has been a more serious injury, complications are uncommon.

What Are the Modes of Prevention for Bone Bruising?

The following tips may help keep the bones strong and healthy; however, bone bruising cannot always be avoided. Certain lifestyle choices can improve the strength and health of the bones and their ability to mend. To maintain the health of the bones, these guidelines may prove useful:

  • Consume a healthy, well-balanced diet.

  • Get some exercise regularly.

  • Weight-bearing activity, in particular, is beneficial to bone health.

  • When participating in sports, always wear the necessary protective equipment.

  • Because bones weaken with age, it is advisable to consult a doctor annually, especially after a certain age or in case of professions requiring strain on the bones.

Conclusion

Bone bruises may occur to any individual due to various factors, ranging from strenuous activity to old age or another underlying disease. The tips mentioned above to maintain the bones' health and integrity, coupled with a physician's regular check-ups, are mandatory to prevent the condition or ask for treatment in case the condition does arise. Certain lifestyle choices are also instrumental in causing bone bruises and recovery periods.

Frequently Asked Questions

1.

How Long Does Bone Bruises Hurt?

The symptoms and pain of bone bruises can subside within a few weeks, but most heal entirely over a few months. Therefore, bone bruises can hurt for up to two months or until the injury heals completely. In addition, a larger bone bruise can take a relatively long time to heal, and therefore, it can continue to hurt for an extended period.

2.

Can You Do Anything for a Bone Bruise?

There are several ways in which a bone bruise can be treated; these include:
 - Taking rest and avoiding strenuous activities, and giving the injury time to heal.
 - Cold compression or applying ice and ice packs to the affected area.
 - Over-the-counter painkillers can help in relieving the pain caused by a bruised bone.
 - If the bruise is on the foot or leg, elevation can also help reduce the swelling.

3.

Is a Bone Bruise Very Painful?

Yes, bone bruises can be painful due to traumatic injury. However, these bruises are less painful and severe than bone fractures. Depending upon the severity and site of the damage, these bruises can be mild to severely painful.

4.

How Do You Tell if a Bone Is Broken or Just Bruised?

Bone bruises are less severe and painful as compared to bone fractures. An imaging test like an X-ray is the best way to determine whether an injury is a bone bruise or a bone fracture. An area of bone that has fractured has all of its trabeculae broken. A bone bruise, however, only causes damage to some of these trabeculae.

5.

How Do You Heal a Bruised Bone Fast?

A bruised bone heals quickly if the following measures are taken:
 - Resting the bone or joint.
 - Applying ice or an ice pack to the affected area. Ice should not be applied directly to the skin but for 15 to 20 minutes several times a day.
 - Raising the affected area to reduce swelling.
 - Using over-the-counter drugs to alleviate pain.
 - Using non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs to reduce pain and swelling.

6.

What Does a Bruised Bone Feel Like?

A bruised bone appears bluish-black, along with pain and stiffness in the affected area. If a joint is injured, there will be swelling of the joint. In addition, the patient may complain of discomfort, pain in movement, etc.

7.

Can a Bone Bruise Turn Into a Fracture?

It is highly unlikely for a bone bruise to turn into a bone fracture because in the case of a bone bruise, the bone particles get compressed, and trabaculae are broken but not to the extent that it can turn into a fracture. However, in some cases, bone bruises can occur as a part of the injury that causes a bone fracture.

8.

How Long Does a Bone Contusion Take To Heal?

A bone contusion or bone bruise can take several weeks to a few months to heal. Usually, a bone contusion heals within one to two months. However, the time taken to heal depends primarily on the site and severity of the injury.

9.

Why Do Bone Bruises Take So Long to Heal?

Bone bruises take considerable time to heal because the condition is accompanied by swelling and reduced blood flow to the injured area. Therefore, bone bruises take a longer time to heal as compared to skin bruises.

10.

How Do You Know if a Bruise Is Serious?

A bone bruise can be severe if the injured area has a large bruise that takes longer than usual to heal. In a severe bone bruise, the bone may sustain lifelong damage. The body may find it challenging to repair a vast area completely. Too much time without adequate blood flow can cause avascular necrosis, the death of a portion of the bone.

11.

Can a Bruise Be Permanent?

Bone bruises can not be permanent but can cause permanent damage to the body. If the bone bruise is huge, it can lead to avascular necrosis (death of bone cells) of the bone. In severe injuries that cause large bone bruises, the body fails to completely repair the damage due to inadequate blood flow in the affected area.

12.

How Long Does Deep Tissue Bruising Take To Heal?

Deep tissue bruising or deep tissue contusions is a painful condition characterized by swelling and discoloration of the affected area. However, without any complications, these deep tissue bruisings subside within a few weeks.

13.

Can Massaging a Bone Bruise Provide Any Benefits?

Physical therapy and massages can help reduce swelling and inflammation in the affected area. Soft tissue massage can also help remove excess or accumulated fluid from the affected area.

14.

Can a Deep Bruise Cause a Lump?

Yes, in some cases, bruises can cause lumps. These lumps indicate a more serious complication of the injury other than the bruise itself. These lumps that can occur following a bruise are known as hematomas (pooling of blood under the skin). These hematomas can give the bruise a lump-like appearance.

15.

How Do You Tell if a Bruise Is a Clot?

Bruises are visible skin marks that frequently develop due to physical injury. A blood clot, however, accumulates blood inside a vessel. Blood clots can obstruct normal blood flow, which usually forms in tissues beneath the skin.
Dr. Anuj Nigam
Dr. Anuj Nigam

Orthopedician and Traumatology

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bone bruise
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