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Bone Bruise in Children

Medically reviewed by Last updated on Oct 31, 2022.

What is a bone bruise?

A bone bruise is an injury to your child's bone that is not a fracture. A bone bruise happens when the bone gets several small cracks. Blood and fluid collect just under the cracks. Ligaments near the bone bruise are also commonly damaged. A bone bruise can happen in any bone but usually happens in bones just under the skin. The most common areas are the knee and ankle. A bone bruise may take a few weeks or months to heal.

What are the signs and symptoms of a bone bruise?

  • Pain that may be severe
  • A swollen or tender area near the injury
  • Swollen or stiff joints that are injured
  • Changes in skin color over the injury

How is a bone bruise diagnosed?

Your child's healthcare provider will ask about your child's symptoms and check the injured area. The provider will need to know what happened when your child was injured. Have your child explain when the pain started and how bad it is. Your child should also describe any other symptoms, such as stiffness or trouble moving the area. MRI pictures may show the bone bruise. Other injuries may also show up in the pictures. Do not let your child enter the MRI room with anything metal. Metal can cause serious injury. Tell the healthcare provider if your child has any metal in or on his or her body. Your child's healthcare provider may also use x-ray pictures to check for a fracture.

How is a bone bruise managed?

A bone bruise does not need to be treated. It will heal on its own as your child's body grows new bone. The following can help you manage your child's bone bruise until it heals:

  • Prescription pain medicine may be given. Ask your child's healthcare provider how to give this medicine safely. Some prescription pain medicines contain acetaminophen. Do not give your child other medicines that contain acetaminophen without talking to his or her healthcare provider. Too much acetaminophen may cause liver damage. Prescription pain medicine may cause constipation. Ask your child's healthcare provider how to prevent or treat constipation.
  • NSAIDs , such as ibuprofen, help decrease swelling, pain, and fever. This medicine is available with or without a doctor's order. NSAIDs can cause stomach bleeding or kidney problems in certain people. If your child takes blood thinner medicine, always ask if NSAIDs are safe for him or her. Always read the medicine label and follow directions. Do not give these medicines to children younger than 6 months without direction from a healthcare provider.
  • Do not give aspirin to children younger than 18 years. Your child could develop Reye syndrome if he or she has the flu or a fever and takes aspirin. Reye syndrome can cause life-threatening brain and liver damage. Check your child's medicine labels for aspirin or salicylates.
  • Have your child rest the area to help it heal. Rest will allow your child's body to build new bone. Your child may be able to do light activities while he or she heals. Do not let your child put weight on the injured area or play contact sports for 3 to 5 days or as directed. Your child may need to use crutches or a cane if a leg is affected. Your child's healthcare provider may also recommend a brace or sling to prevent the area from moving.
  • Apply ice to reduce pain and swelling. Use an ice pack, or put crushed ice in a plastic bag. Cover the bag with a small towel before you apply it to your child's skin. Apply ice for 15 to 20 minutes every hour, or as directed.
  • Elevate the area to reduce pain and swelling. Prop the area on pillows to keep it elevated above the level of your child's heart comfortably.
  • Increase calcium and vitamin D as directed. Calcium and vitamin D work together to help build bone. Calcium is found in dairy products, such as milk and cheese. Spinach, salmon, and dried beans are also good sources of calcium. Cereal, bread, and orange juice may be fortified with vitamin D. Your child also gets vitamin D from exposure to sunlight.
  • Talk to your adolescent about not smoking. Nicotine and other chemicals in cigarettes and cigars can cause blood vessel damage and delay healing. Ask your adolescent's healthcare provider for information if he or she currently smokes and need helps to quit. E-cigarettes or smokeless tobacco still contain nicotine. Talk to your adolescent's healthcare provider before he or she uses these products.

When should I seek immediate care?

  • Your child's leg feels warm, tender, and painful. It may look swollen and red.
  • Your child's symptoms spread beyond the injured area.
  • Your child has severe pain and swelling near the injury.

When should I contact my child's healthcare provider?

  • Your child has a fever.
  • Your child has new or worsening symptoms.
  • Your child's pain or swelling does not get better after 3 days of treatment.
  • Your child feels pain when he or she stretches the injured area.
  • The skin over your child's injury is pale or cool to the touch.
  • You have questions or concerns about your child's condition or care.

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your child's care. Learn about your child's health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your child's healthcare providers to decide what care you want for your child. The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

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Further information

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