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What is a Bone Contusion?

A bone contusion, often referred to as a bone bruise, is a painful injury where the bone sustains a small area of damage, typically from impact or pressure. It's less severe than a fracture but can cause discomfort and swelling. Intriguingly, the healing process and management of symptoms are areas worth exploring further. How does our body recover from such trauma? Let's uncover the details together.
D. Jeffress
D. Jeffress

A bone contusion is a deep bruise that affects a section of bone tissue. Most contusions result from direct injuries, such as falls or sudden impacts during sports. Bone bruises are typically very painful and lingering symptoms may last for several months following injuries, especially when they occur near the ends of joints where ligaments and cartilage are also damaged. Treatment for a bone contusion depends on the location and the severity of symptoms, but most patients are given pain medications and instructed to get plenty of rest to promote faster healing.

There are several different classifications of bone contusions, but all involve direct damage to a bone that does not actually cause a fracture. A bone contusion can be just as painful as a fracture, however, and take about the same amount of time to heal. Most contusions occur at joints, and bruising is especially common in the knee, hip, elbow, ankle, and wrist. A fall, hit, or a sudden stop or twist can put enough pressure on a joint to tear cartilage tissue and mar the underlying bone. Athletes who play contact sports and elderly people with bone-weakening conditions such as osteoporosis are at the highest risk of suffering an injury that results in serious bone bruising.

A man with a bone contusion.
A man with a bone contusion.

A person who believes that he or she has suffered a bone contusion should visit a primary care physician or an emergency room. A doctor can physically inspect the tender bone or joint and ask about symptoms to determine if extensive damage may be present. He or she usually orders x-rays and magnetic resonance imaging scans to confirm the presence of a contusion and inspect surrounding ligament, cartilage, and muscle tissue.

A diagram of the anatomy of a bone.
A diagram of the anatomy of a bone.

Patients with mild bone contusions are typically advised to rest, ice, and elevate the injured body part for several days to ease their symptoms. A doctor might recommend an over-the-counter anti-inflammatory drug such as ibuprofen or prescribe a high strength corticosteroid. If pain and swelling are severe, the patient may need to receive a corticosteroid injection directly into the joint. Mild bone contusions usually start feeling better in two to four weeks, at which point an individual can begin light activity to gradually rebuild strength and flexibility.

Ligament tears that accompany bone contusions may require physical therapy.
Ligament tears that accompany bone contusions may require physical therapy.

If extensive cartilage or ligament damage accompanies a bone contusion, additional treatment may be needed. Ligament tears often require surgery to repair tissue and remove dead or damaged cartilage from the joint. Follow-up home care and physical therapy usually help patients return to normal activity levels between two and eight months following surgical procedures.

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Discussion Comments


I bruised the bone on the top of my foot eight weeks ago. At the moment, it occasionally aches in morning, sometimes throbs around by the arch of my foot and hurts when I try kicking the football hard. Can someone tell me how long I will be out for? I want to get back to playing football asap. I had three X-rays and they said nothing's broken, that it's badly bruised. I would appreciate replies.


I was running backward and felt a sudden pain on the outside of my right foot, possibly the 5th metatarsal bone. There is no swelling, and no pain when I push on it, but it's slightly sensitive when walking. It seems less severe than what this is saying but the tenderness has been there every day for seven days.

I'm thinking bone contusion because pushing on it and a physical therapist pushing on it doesn't bring any added pain. Just a slight addition to pain when going onto my toes (on the release down, not lifting and only when all the weight is on my right foot.) I just don't want to risk anything, plus I see no purpose in doing races where my time will be less than my best!


I fell out the bed on my knee now my whole leg is hurting.

Two nights ago, I fell out of the bed and fell on my knee. Now my knee and leg up to my thigh are hurting and hurt when I try to bend it, put pressure on it or walk on it. It feels a little bit better, but that's only a small percentage. what do you think is the matter with my knee/leg/thigh? It feels like there is a lump behind my thigh and it looks a little bit like my knee is swollen. What should I do?


I fell over two weeks ago Saturday. I fell and hurt my knee and went to the hospital as I couldn't walk for two days. They did an x-ray and told me it wasn't broken or fractured and then I got crutches.

A week went by and then I started walking without crutches. I have been walking a week yesterday. My son came into my room this morning and pointed out I have a massive bruise from the top of my calf right down to my ankle; it's black and purple! My leg is still sore, and I'm going to go the doctor tomorrow and see what they say, but from what I've been reading it's not looking good for me.


@musicshaman: I'm a figure skater, and yes, you're right. Patellas hurt when bruised! I have an elbow that I landed on two weeks ago and those aren't much better.


I got one on my leg when I was riding. I slipped a pedal and when I did, I did a 180 going fast and landed on my back leg.


I had an MRI scan and my results have come back saying I haven't got any damage apart from bruising on the bone, but my knee keeps locking, clicking and swelling up when I walk. What else could it be?


I was in a snowmobile accident this winter and had blunt trauma to the area above my ankle, on my shin. They did x-rays and were concerned it was fractured so sent the x-rays away for a second opinion and I was put on crutches, T3's and told me to ice it. Results came back that it wasn't fractured and I was told to ice it.

It's eight weeks or more later and I still have no feeling in my skin, a bruise with deep purple lines remains and to press it is tender. When I walk on it now, with every step it feels like someone is stabbing me in the center of it from the inside. Very, very painful!


I have a cone contusion in my shoulder. It is very painful and I need advice on what to do about my situation.


I have pain on the right side of the ball of my right foot. I had an MRI done and was told I had three bone contusions: one on the ankle, one on the first metatarsal, and one on the third metatarsal. However, the pain is coming from the right side beneath the fourth and fifth metatarsal. I was also told the swelling was present around all five metatarsals. Any ideas as to why the swelling, the pain, and the contusions don't match up?


I'm a runner. i sprinted near the finish line when i crossed over my boyfriend, hitting my right shin with his knee. i had medical help after that and was given an anti-inflammatory drug for seven days. i took it for 10 days but still the pain is there. After several weeks i noticed a hump on my shin.

I rested it for quite a while and cut my weekday run, only running on sundays during races. I can feel the pain though, but is tolerable then. but i had to compensate my weight to not distribute it on my right leg. Instead i had to put it in my right knee and hip joint. now I am suffering pain every time I run. All the joints in my left and right legs are now painful so i decided to stop running and consulted another doctor, who had it x-rayed, and found out that the hump in my right shin is visible in the film. The doctor said it's a good sign because it means my bone is strong because it thickened itself.

I'm not satisfied with his answer, because if it's really good, how come i can feel the sore feeling and pain in walking or any leg activity? but he endorsed my for shin splint therapy.

after a few sessions i talked to a different therapist, and was telling them my story how i got the injury and they said I'm club-footed which is the reason why I'm prone to sprain or ankle injury, which i had a history with in the past. they also told me that what happened to me is not shin splint, it's bone contusion. I'm convinced what the therapist told me is correct. I'm still on my fourth session of my rehabilitation. I hope I'll get healed before my another big race day. Good luck to me.


I have a syndemosis ankle sprain and bone contusion on my talus bone, pain was unbearable in October 2010. The doctor told me to continue to walk on it for two weeks while MRI results came back big mistake. Now March 2011 still on crutches but the contusion is 80 percent better. I can put all my weight on foot though bending the ankle still painful. From all that I've read 6-12 months for total recovery.


i have had this bone contusion for a year now, and it is ruining my life. the pain hurts every day.


I had a bone contusion on my patella, and I have to tell you, when it comes to bone contusions, the patella is the worst!

It was one of the most painful things I have ever experienced, and the bone contusion knee treatments are not much better than the actual fall itself was -- I am always really careful now to avoid falling like that again, because seriously, the pain is unreal.


What are the bone contusion symptoms? Are they the same as those for a bone edema? The other day I had what I thought was just a bad foot sprain, but it's still not getting better, and the swelling is pretty bad. Is it possible that I could have a bone contusion? Do I need to get some bone xrays or radiology done?


I once had a bone and soft tissue contusion, and although it wasn't fun at the time of course, looking back at the arthrogram (the bone xray) is kind of cool now -- it's a little point of pride, I suppose, on experiencing that and the healing process that comes afterwards.

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    • A man with a bone contusion.
      By: Luis Santos
      A man with a bone contusion.
    • A diagram of the anatomy of a bone.
      By: Alila
      A diagram of the anatomy of a bone.
    • Ligament tears that accompany bone contusions may require physical therapy.
      By: WavebreakmediaMicro
      Ligament tears that accompany bone contusions may require physical therapy.
    • A bone contusion can be just as painful as a fracture, and may occur at a wrist joint.
      By: Africa Studio
      A bone contusion can be just as painful as a fracture, and may occur at a wrist joint.
    • A person who believes that she or he has suffered a bone contusion should visit an emergency room.
      By: eAlisa
      A person who believes that she or he has suffered a bone contusion should visit an emergency room.
    • Pain and inflammation can be treated with an NSAID, such as ibuprofen.
      By: Geo Martinez
      Pain and inflammation can be treated with an NSAID, such as ibuprofen.
    • A person who believes that she has suffered a bone contusion should visit a primary care physician.
      By: Monkey Business
      A person who believes that she has suffered a bone contusion should visit a primary care physician.