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What Is a Bone Bruise?

A diagram of the anatomy of a bone.
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  • Written By: Alex Paul
  • Edited By: Jacob Harkins
  • Last Modified Date: 11 July 2014
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A bone bruise refers to a bone injury that doesn’t show up on an X-ray scan. Although there is no fracture present, a bruise on a bone can be an extremely painful injury and can last for up to a month in some cases. Although the injury is painful there is usually no long lasting side effects and the problem often heals without any treatment. There are, however, more serious conditions that are also called bone bruises such as bone lesions caused by trauma. These types of bruises are often associated with severe injuries such as ligament ruptures.

Due to the symptoms of a bruise being similar to that of a fracture, it is not uncommon for them to be misdiagnosed. Both are very painful and often cause significant swelling to the area. With modern X-ray technology, however, it is usually possible to distinguish between the two by looking for evidence of a fracture. In the past, a bone bruise would commonly be treated as a fracture. Even so, it’s often a good idea to get a scan of a bruise to check that there is no break.

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There are several different ways that a bruise can occur. The most common is through a direct trauma injury. For example, a strong impact caused by falling or being struck during a sports game can often cause a bruise to develop. Regular bruises disappear relatively quickly but a bone bruise often takes longer to heal. The reason a bone bruise occurs is that the top layer of bone becomes damaged with lots of small cracks rather than a single fracture.

Treatment for a bone bruise isn’t often required as the symptoms will disappear naturally over time. There are, however, methods that can speed up the healing process. For example, icing the affected area can reduce the swelling and decrease the time taken for the bruise to heal. Resting the injured area is also essential for a quick and full recovery.

Prevention of a bone bruise is often difficult because these injuries occur accidentally and suddenly. Although true prevention is impossible it is possible to reduce the severity immediately after an impact occurs. Icing the area for around 10 minutes — being careful not to cause frostbite — will often reduce the overall recovery time. If the injury is sustained during a sports competition then the athlete should immediately stop playing in order to prevent further damage.

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Discuss this Article

Nandubb028
Post 2

I fell over a year ago, bruising my shin and cutting the skin. I have no insurance so i never got it checked out. Lately I have been having severe pressure and pain in that same area. I've had an knee/leg x-ray and it showed nothing. If someone runs a finger over the area, it makes me feel as if I'm going to vomit. I can also feel a divot in that area. My leg feels as if it could just snap. Can anyone else please help? I do not have any doctor care except the clinic in my area. They haven't a clue what to do for me.

anon152790
Post 1

I fell on the ice two weeks ago. The er said it was a deep bone bruise. My leg will not support much weight. Is this normal and how long before this heals? I use crutches to get around

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