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Bone Bruise

Medically reviewed by Last updated on May 2, 2022.

What is a bone bruise?

A bone bruise, or contusion, is an injury to your 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 or cartilage 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, ankle, forearm, and wrist. 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 healthcare provider will ask about your symptoms and check the injured area. Tell your provider what happened when you were injured. Tell him or her when the pain started and how bad it is. Describe any other symptoms, such as stiffness or trouble moving the area.

  • X-ray pictures may be used to check for a fracture.
  • MRI pictures may show the bone bruise even if an x-ray is normal. Some bone bruises cannot be found for the first 30 hours after the injury. Other injuries may also show up in the pictures. Do not enter the MRI room with anything metal. Metal can cause serious injury. Tell the healthcare provider if you have any metal in or on your body.

How is a bone bruise managed?

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

  • Prescription pain medicine may be given. Ask your healthcare provider how to take this medicine safely. Some prescription pain medicines contain acetaminophen. Do not take other medicines that contain acetaminophen without talking to your healthcare provider. Too much acetaminophen may cause liver damage. Prescription pain medicine may cause constipation. Ask your 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 you take blood thinner medicine, always ask your healthcare provider if NSAIDs are safe for you. Always read the medicine label and follow directions.
  • Rest the area to help it heal. Rest will allow your body to build new bone. You may be able to do light activities while you heal. Do not put weight on the injured area or play contact sports for 3 to 5 days or as directed. You may need to use crutches or a cane if a leg is affected. Your 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 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 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. You also get vitamin D from exposure to sunlight. You may also need a calcium or vitamin D supplement if blood tests show your levels are low. Do not take supplements unless directed.
  • Do not smoke. Nicotine and other chemicals in cigarettes and cigars can cause blood vessel damage and delay healing. Ask your healthcare provider for information if you currently smoke and need help to quit. E-cigarettes or smokeless tobacco still contain nicotine. Talk to your healthcare provider before you use these products.

When should I seek immediate care?

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

When should I contact my healthcare provider?

  • You have a fever.
  • You have new or worsening symptoms.
  • Your pain or swelling does not get better after 3 days of treatment.
  • You feel pain when you stretch the injured area.
  • Your skin over the injury is pale or cool to the touch.
  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your healthcare providers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment. 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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