What Are the Symptoms of a Bone Bruise?

A diagram of the anatomy of a bone.
The knees are a common site of bone bruises.
A man with a bone bruise.
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  • Written By: Amanda Barnhart
  • Edited By: Shereen Skola
  • Last Modified Date: 27 October 2014
  • Copyright Protected:
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A bone bruise occurs as a result of an accident or trauma that puts pressure on the bone forceful enough to cause bleeding beneath the covering of the bone. Symptoms of a bone bruise vary slightly depending on the extent of the injury, and they can mimic the symptoms of other injuries, such as sprains, muscle bruises, and ligament or tendon damage. The most common symptoms of a bone bruise include swelling, pain, and stiffness.

Swelling is the most common sign of a bone bruise and occurs in most people with this type of injury. Many other injuries can cause swelling, and it is not always apparent that the bone is bruised at the time of injury. Sometimes the bruise is visible on the skin when other soft tissues are bruised, but the only definitive way to determine if swelling is the result of a bone bruise is with an X-ray. Elevating the injured area and applying ice several times a day for 10 to 20 minutes at a time can help swelling subside. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS), such as ibuprofen, are also helpful.

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Pain is another one of the most universal symptoms of a bone bruise. Bones damaged by bruising are typically the result of an accident or sports injury that puts sudden, immense pressure on the bone forceful enough to rupture the surrounding membrane, which allows fluids and blood to leak. Pain at the time of injury is common, but the pain often intensifies over the next few days and may last for weeks. People with a bone bruise can help control pain during the healing process with over-the-counter pain relievers, such as aspirin and acetaminophen.

Stiffness can occur with a bone bruise, particularly if the injured bone is part of a joint or near a joint. The knee and elbow are common injury sites for bone bruises, especially for athletes. Stiff joints can be indicative of other injuries as well. After a few days of rest, slow range of motion exercises can help alleviate symptoms of a bone bruise while the bone continues to heal.

It is important to seek medical attention for any moderate to severe injury if symptoms of a bone bruise are present. An X-ray can determine if there are any fractures or if further examination on the surrounding soft tissues needs to be done to rule out other serious injuries. A bone bruise doesn’t usually require specific medical treatment, though it may take several months to heal fully before the swelling and pain completely subside. 

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anon974311
Post 13

I tripped over my dog as I was walking to the living room, and we have hardwood floor, I fell on both knees, went to the doctor and she said It wasn't broken it was just a bone bruise. My knee feels so stiff whenever I have it in the same spot for too long, like if I'm sitting or laying down, and hurts worse in the morning.

No pain meds are working. Do I ask for something stronger than ibuprofen or advil? I'm 19, and it's been hurting for about a week now.

anon953881
Post 12

My big dog got loose and I was holding onto his chain. He saw something to chase and the chain hit my forearm full force. That hurt, but it really stated to get painful about 15 minutes later. That is more painful then a break if you ask me. Now I hear that it will take moths to heal. Wow!

anon938810
Post 11

Today it was a nice day out and the snow started melting. I decided to get my dirtbike running and take it for a little rip. I was on an icy patch and my dirtbike lost traction and made me crash. I was going at a decent speed and my leg got hurt. The whole thing happened so fast I don’t know if the bike landed on it or what.

Once I got inside and took a look at my leg (the knee cap) it was swollen and bruising had started. I touched the bruise and it felt numb (as if you went to the dentist to get fillings and they put numbing in your cheek). It has been five hours since the crash and I can barely walk on it and it is swollen and bruising and still numb. What do you think it could be? Badly bruised or pulled ligaments?

anon924049
Post 10

A chair fell onto the top of my foot two years ago, but I didn't go to the doctors because I thought it was just a bruise. About every year the bruise comes again. Do you think it is a bone bruise?

anon349319
Post 9

I recently had a can dropped on my shin and have gone to the ER. They said it was a bone bruise. I am still having issues with my leg going numb as well as my foot going numb and experiencing extreme coldness and burning in my foot. Is it possible it is fractured and is not just a bruise? It has swelled up every night and the shin looks like there are lumps in it.

anon341824
Post 8

I have a bruise-like pain just below my left knee. If you glanced at it, you wouldn't notice a thing, but it hurts when I stand on it or run. This happened while I was drop-kicking in rugby union. I may have put too much pressure in my left leg but I do not know. The pain has been off and on and is very weird.

How should I take care of this? Any suggestions on what this injury might be?

anon303849
Post 7

I was in a car wreck about six months ago, and my right knee was bruised. It was so bad the bruise traveled all the way down my leg to my foot. I went to the ER and they said it was a bad bruise and it would go away soon. The ex ray showed nothing. Now six months later, it is still swollen and very painful to the touch. Anybody have any suggestions?

anon290537
Post 6

I was injured in a softball game four years ago. A line drive hit my shin (right above my ankle). My leg swelled and I was in intense pain. I went to Urgent Care the next day. They didn't mention it was a bone bruise at the time.

Then, about six months later, when it was still tender and there was a slight bump on it, I went to the doctor and they said that it was a bone bruise and they are known to take a long time to heal. These days it only hurts when it's hit or when your apply pressure to it from a certain angle. It seems to have a slightly caved appearance.

I'm scheduling an appointment with a doctor today. I just want to make sure this isn't something that could spread. I'm pretty freaked out about it.

JackWhack
Post 5

I rammed my shin into the edge of a concrete step once, and I believe that I bruised my bone. It hurt like nothing ever had before, and it was so sore and tender for months.

After it finally healed, the skin over the area had sunken in, and it appeared that a chunk of my skin was missing. I still have this little depressed area on my shin, and this happened twenty years ago!

My mother has a similar scar on her shin from when she ran into a tractor as a child, and she is in her sixties now. I guess that some bone bruises have lasting effects.

lighth0se33
Post 4

@seag47 – I think a lump would have been enough to scare me into going to the doctor! When I bruised my knee in a car wreck, I had no choice on whether or not to go. The ambulance arrived and whisked me away.

My knee hurt worse than it ever had in my life. I'm glad that they checked for broken bones, because knowing that I didn't have any gave me peace of mind while I went through the healing process.

My knee stayed bruised for many months, and I had to keep my weight off of it during this time. I had never had a bruise take as long as this one did to go through all the colors and fade out.

anon283928
Post 3

I have severe knee pain in both knees and I have asked for months for the doctor to treat it but because there was no injury, they have ignored it for several months. Now about a year later, they did an x-ray and it showed nothing. Then a few months later, they ordered an MRI and it showed that I have a bruise on the bone.

Well, needless to say, I dealt with the pain and did what I could to alleviate the pain myself, but I still can't bend and it's still very painful to extend out when I bend it.

Now I am currently experiencing the same pain in the right knee and the x-ray shows nothing again. It is very painful to walk. It does feel like I have broken it but there is no break in it. The doctor currently has me on a walking cast to take some pressure off the left knee so that it will heal. But no pain meds at all.

seag47
Post 2

I bruised my forearm right below my elbow, and that was incredibly painful. I had discoloration on the surface, as well as swelling beneath my skin.

I felt a lump on my bone. It took months to heal, and though I was a little worried about the lump, I didn't have health insurance and couldn't afford a trip to the doctor for an exam.

Kristee
Post 1

I have always heard that you aren't supposed to take aspirin or ibuprofen when you have a bruise, because they can increase your bleeding. I suppose that it may be different with a bone bruise, though, because you have injured the actual bone.

Still, I think I will stick with acetaminophen. I would hate to increase any bleeding beneath my skin that might occur along with the bone bruise.

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