A bone bruise occurs as a result of an accident or trauma that puts pressure on the bone forceful enough to cause bleeding beneath the covering of the bone. Symptoms of a bone bruise vary slightly depending on the extent of the injury, and they can mimic the symptoms of other injuries, such as sprains, muscle bruises, and ligament or tendon damage. The most common symptoms of a bone bruise include swelling, pain, and stiffness.
Swelling is the most common sign of a bone bruise and occurs in most people with this type of injury. Many other injuries can cause swelling, and it is not always apparent that the bone is bruised at the time of injury. Sometimes the bruise is visible on the skin when other soft tissues are bruised, but the only definitive way to determine if swelling is the result of a bone bruise is with an X-ray. Elevating the injured area and applying ice several times a day for 10 to 20 minutes at a time can help swelling subside. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS), such as ibuprofen, are also helpful.
Pain is another one of the most universal symptoms of a bone bruise. Bones damaged by bruising are typically the result of an accident or sports injury that puts sudden, immense pressure on the bone forceful enough to rupture the surrounding membrane, which allows fluids and blood to leak. Pain at the time of injury is common, but the pain often intensifies over the next few days and may last for weeks. People with a bone bruise can help control pain during the healing process with over-the-counter pain relievers, such as aspirin and acetaminophen.
Stiffness can occur with a bone bruise, particularly if the injured bone is part of a joint or near a joint. The knee and elbow are common injury sites for bone bruises, especially for athletes. Stiff joints can be indicative of other injuries as well. After a few days of rest, slow range of motion exercises can help alleviate symptoms of a bone bruise while the bone continues to heal.
It is important to seek medical attention for any moderate to severe injury if symptoms of a bone bruise are present. An X-ray can determine if there are any fractures or if further examination on the surrounding soft tissues needs to be done to rule out other serious injuries. A bone bruise doesn’t usually require specific medical treatment, though it may take several months to heal fully before the swelling and pain completely subside.