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What is Bone Swelling?

By Sandra Koehler
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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Bone swelling is a condition of inflammation marked by an increase of fluid buildup and pain in and around a bone. There may also be a decreased ability to move the particular body part involved. The protective response of swelling helps guard the injured area from further damage and aids in the healing process.

Since bones are made of a dense, hard material on the exterior, most bone swelling occurs around the bone or in the joint spaces connecting one bone to another. Swelling due to excessive fluid, however, can occur inside the flexible material located in the center of the bone called the bone marrow. Bone marrow edema is an instance where there is an excess of fluid inside the bone itself.

Causes of bone swelling can range from an injury such as a blow to the bone, often referred to as a bone contusion or bruise. A fracture or break of the bone, especially if it is an open fracture where the bone protrudes through the skin, can cause swelling either of the surrounding area or of the bone marrow if bacteria gains entrance through the fracture. Other conditions which may produce this swelling include degenerative diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis; autoimmune diseases such as lupus; and some forms of cancer such as osteosarcoma, cancer of the bone, and chrondrosarcoma, cancer of the cartilage surrounding a bone.

Osteomyelitis or bone infections may also cause bone swelling. A bone infection is commonly bacterial. It invades the bone and can cause damage to the bone's blood supply as well as to the integrity of the bone itself. Bone infections can occur not only from a bone fracture but also from general infection processes such as pneumonia or urinary tract infections, where the bacteria travels through the blood stream and into the bones.

Bone swelling is characterized by puffiness and pain or tenderness over the area. The area may be warm to the touch and mobility of the body part involved may be limited; in severe cases, there may be an inability to move the affected area at all. If swelling is caused by an infection, it may be accompanied by fever, chills, or nausea.

Treatment of bone swelling depends on the cause. When it is due to an injury a period of ice, rest and immobility with the use of a compression bandage may decrease symptoms. If the swelling is due to an infection, proper treatment of the infection with antibiotics can decrease pain. In some instances, excessive fluid buildup requires draining. In extreme cases, surgery may be necessary to remove fluid and damaged bone to avoid further problems.

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Discussion Comments

By soulcrave824 — On Jul 18, 2016

I had a swollen bone just beneath my knee after a rough tackle playing football. Luckily for me, I was introduced to a great dietary supplement the same day of the injury and to my surprise after using the supplement, I virtually didn't go through the painful period I should have experienced. The pain subsided like magic and I could always walk like there was no swelling in my bone. The product is amazing as it also took care of my arthritis and my general health.

By anon993367 — On Nov 08, 2015

About a year ago I fell on a concrete stair and it bruised. But after a few days, the bruise was gone and my bone started swelling. It still is and it hurts sometimes. Does anyone know how to fix this?

By anon980133 — On Dec 02, 2014

I got kicked in my right calf about two or three years ago, and the pain felt like a jolt of electricity shocking through my bones. It still hurts to this day when it's extra cold and when I walk a lot. If I bump my calf by accident it's pain like no other. I had an X-ray and got a little circular spot that looks swollen. Is there anything I can do to take the swelling down?

By fBoyle — On Oct 28, 2013

Does anyone here have bone and joint swelling due to arthritis? I have rheumatoid arthritis in my hands. My hands, especially the joints are very swollen. The medications given by my doctor hasn't helped. What type of treatment is best for this condition?

By burcidi — On Oct 28, 2013

@fify-- I'm not a doctor or anything but I also have a spinal hernia and I believe that bone swelling is a common result of it.

You see, when there is a hernia, a spinal disc, which is basically a bone filled with liquid, cracks. It then leaks spinal liquid which applies pressure on nearby nerves. This is the main cause of back pain. But the cracking of the bone also causes inflammation which makes nerve pain worse. It also leads to stiffness and swelling that someone may notice while looking at your back.

You're absolutely right that anti-inflammatory medications help. My biggest relief has been cortisone, which is a very powerful anti-inflammatory injection. When the inflammation around the disc is gone, the pressure on the nerves are also relieved.

You've had an MRI right? An MRI scan should clarify how much inflammation is present around your hernia.

By fify — On Oct 27, 2013

Can a lower back hernia cause bone swelling?

I have a hernia in my lower back. I haven't been diagnosed with bone swelling per se, but I have been responding very well to anti-inflammatory medications which makes me think that there is some inflammation there.

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