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What is a Contusion?

Tricia Christensen
Updated: Mar 03, 2024

A contusion is injury to the muscle, bone or soft tissue of the body. It usually results from blunt force trauma, and certain types of contusions are simply called bruises. Most people won’t make it through life without the occasional bruise that might occur from bumping into something. More serious injuries that affect bone or muscle can be very significant, but a small simple bruise is usually of little concern.

As mentioned, there are three different types of contusion that may occur. Soft tissue contusions cause skin discoloration, as blood vessels may bleed directly under the skin. This can create a virtual rainbow of colors and a bruise might look brown, red, blue, purple, or yellow. Provided the contusion is small and not located in a potentially dangerous area, like the head, it may require no treatment at all. Bruising may be minimized by using ice or a cold pack directly after an injury occurs.

Sometimes people appear to get soft tissue contusion types regularly. They may not even realize they’ve had any type of injury until they notice a bruise. This could be the result of taking things like anti-coagulants, which may thin the blood or make it clot slower. Some bleeding disorders like hemophilia might also result in significant bleeding that creates huge bruises, and occasionally people who are anemic may have higher bruising incidence. Anyone at higher risk should follow doctor’s directions for treating small contusions; the use of ice is definitely recommended, and any injuries to the head need to be treated as potentially life threatening.

Other types of contusion can occur in people with or without special conditions. A muscle bruise injures the muscles, and there may be a perceptible lump at the site of the injury. This can cause cramping, stiffness, and considerable pain in the affected area. These are not uncommon in certain contact sports, though they can occur in other settings.

Generally the most severe type of contusion is the bone bruise. This isn’t an actual break, but it can be extremely uncomfortable. People may need x-rays to rule out any broken bones because pain can be severe, and it may inhibit movement just as a break would. A severe bone bruise can last for a very long time, and people might require physical therapy to help preserve or enhance range of motion in the area of injury.

The average small contusion may not require a lot of treatment. Suspected muscle and bone contusions are more serious and usually need to be brought to the attention of a doctor. It’s very important to realize that bruising may occur when a broken bone is present. A broken toe can cause the foot to look almost black in color. While waiting to see a doctor, people should follow the RICE method of treatment (rest, ice, compression, elevation). This may also be advocated after doctor’s care to promote comfort and facilitate healing.

The Health Board is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Tricia Christensen
By Tricia Christensen
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a The Health Board contributor, Tricia Christensen is based in Northern California and brings a wealth of knowledge and passion to her writing. Her wide-ranging interests include reading, writing, medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion, all of which she incorporates into her informative articles. Tricia is currently working on her first novel.
Discussion Comments
By anon324855 — On Mar 12, 2013

You should try to push your nose back in so that the swelling heals and if that doesn't work, then you should just leave it alone and it should get better within a week or a year or two.

By anon103094 — On Aug 10, 2010

sounds like your nose was broken and has now "twisted." see a plastic surgeon asap.

By anon51761 — On Nov 09, 2009

i would like to ask a question. i had an accident three or four years ago. i accidentally bumped into a glass window, thinking it was an open door. it hurt so much and my nose bled. i had an x ray but fortunately it was not broken.

my nose got a bone contusion and left a rise or bump ever since. i had asked a cosmetic surgeon to scrape the bone but it seems that the bump rises again. i have tried radio frequency for beauty regimen and found that the bump got smaller. i did that until i noticed that after three days of treatment, it rises again. what treatment should i do?

i am quite desperate as it looks ugly on my face, with a non-symmetrical nose. please help. thanks

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a The Health Board contributor, Tricia...
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