Bone bruises are painful injuries that occur after your bone hits a hard
surface, resulting in tiny fractures in the cortex, the outer layer of
the bone. The bone isn’t actually broken, but bleeding does occur
underneath the area that covers the bone, called the periosteum. Bone
bruises are usually painful and often last a week or two, but the duration
of the bruise can vary greatly and can be altered by the way a person
treats the injury.
A bone bruise typically occurs when your bone hits something that is hard
enough to crack the cortex. Your body then has to repair the tiny fractures,
which takes time. The bone consists of several layers of fibers that overlap
with one another to form solid bone. The damaged fiber is what the body
then has to repair in order for the injury to heal. The discoloration
that goes along with the bruise often starts of as being various shades
of red, then black and blue, moves to a greenish yellow hue and then back
Here are some tips from Dr. Stephen Mikulak, orthopedic surgeon and lower
extremity expert, on what to do if you get a bone bruise:
- The first step would be to confirm that the injury is a bone bruise. The
best way to do so is to contact your physician to perform both an X-ray
and an MRI. The images will give the clearest images that can then lead
to a proper diagnoses and treatment.
- Seeing a physician can also help with the pain level. Bone bruises can
be painful, so tell your physician and they may choose to provide over-the-counter
or prescription medication.
- A bone bruise is unlike a normal bruise because it involves bone damage,
so you should also protect it from any additional trauma. If the bruise
is near a joint, it might be a good idea to wear a brace during the healing process.
- Nicotine can slow the healing process down by constricting blood vessels,
so avoiding nicotine products is ideal.
- Applying ice or something cold will help with the swelling, in turn reducing
the pain and stiffness that accompanies the injury. Using cold compresses,
an ice pack, or even a frozen bag of peas will do the trick.
- Consider taking acetaminophen – a pure pain reliever, or ibuprofen
– a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug. The over-the-counter medications
can help with pain and any swelling that ice cannot reduce on its own.
- The most important thing to remember is to be patient. The healing process
can range from a couple days to a few months, but taking the necessary
precautions will help the injury heal on its own. If you are constantly
moving you run the risk of re-injuring the areas and delaying the recovery process.
Wearing proper padding, shin guards, elbow pads and other sports equipment
can help reduce bruises that occur during contact sports. Being mindful
of running routes and the condition of roads can help prevent falls that
result in bone bruises near joints like your knees and elbows.
Dr. Stephen Mikulak is a pioneer in the field of minimally invasive hip
and knee surgery. You can find out more about him