A deep thigh bruise is a contusion in the quadriceps, a group of four muscles located on the front of the thigh. Often a result of a direct blow to the front of the thigh, this injury is especially common in athletes who participate in contact sports such as American football and rugby. Deep thigh bruises are categorized as mild, moderate or severe, with more severe ones requiring a longer period of treatment. Treatment for this type of injury begins with the Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation (RICE) method. This is followed by stretching, medication and protection until your leg is pain-free and you have a full range of motion again.
The first step in treating a deep thigh bruise is to follow the RICE method. First, immediately stop whatever you were doing when you got the bruise, and apply ice or a cold pack that's wrapped in a towel or cloth to protect the skin to the area. For the first four to six hours immediately following the injury, you should apply ice for about 20 minutes per hour, and then every 3 to 4 waking hours over the next two days. While applying ice, you should bend the knee as far as you can without causing pain to help prevent stiffness and loss of range of motion. In conjunction with the ice, you should also use a bandage to help prevent swelling. This shouldn't be too tight, and you should have full circulation to your feet and toes. While you're resting the leg, try to keep it elevated. Though it's ideal to have it above your heart, any elevation is fine.
If you're not allergic to ibuprofen or acetaminophen, you can take either one of these medications to help with pain and keep inflammation down. Make sure not to exceed the dosing instructions for either medication, though. If you need stronger pain relief, or if the pain lasts for longer than 10 days, you should stop taking the painkillers and get medical help.
A program of regular stretching is important for recovery. You can try lying on your stomach with a pillow under the injured leg. Then bend your leg slowly at the knee until you feel a stretching sensation. Hold it for about 30 to 60 seconds each time, and then repeat, gradually stretching a little more each time. You should do this for 10 to 15 minutes a day, three times per day, for a period of 10 days to two weeks.
It's also very important to protect the area from another injury. Protective padding or compression wraps work well for this purpose. Crutches may be necessary in especially severe cases, to keep the patient's weight off the affected leg. Once the leg is no longer painful and you have the same range of motion as you did before the injury, you should be ready to get back to your normal activities.
During recovery, you'll need to avoid certain activities, particularly those that can strain your legs. If you're a regular runner, you may need to do another activity, like swimming or upper body resistance training. Once you have recovered, it's important to avoid activities that could cause you to become injured again. Make sure to wear appropriate protective gear for any sports that you participate in, and wear an elastic bandage over the site of the injury once you're exercising again.
Failure to adhere to a proper deep thigh bruise treatment plan may lead to a condition known as myositis ossificans, a pooling of blood that eventually calcifies in the injured muscle. Another possible complication of improper treatment is compartment syndrome, a result of excessive muscle swelling. In this condition, the swelling can cause the nerve and circulatory tissues at the injury site to become compressed and even die. Both of these conditions usually require surgical treatment. To avoid complications, you should contact a healthcare provider immediately if you are in extreme pain, can't walk on the injured leg, feel a lot of pressure in the injured area, or see signs of an infection.
Things to Avoid
It's important to not apply heat to a deep thigh bruise, as it can increase the swelling and bleeding. Massage can be harmful too, so it's not recommended for the first few days after an injury. Also, make sure not to strain the muscle any further by using it, at least for the first two days. Avoid alcohol as well, at least for the first few days. Above all, don't try to ignore the pain, as delaying treatment can lead to permanent complications.