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 to normal.
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 here.