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What is Deep Bruising?

Mary McMahon
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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Deep bruising is bruising that lies below the superficial layers of the skin in a patient. Most bruises are subcutaneous, located just below the skin, and while they can be associated with minor pain and swelling, they typically resolve on their own without complications. In the case of deep bruising, the bruise is in the underlying muscle or bone, and can be accompanied with serious medical risks such as internal bleeding and organ damage. It also takes longer to heal and is much more painful than subcutaneous bruising.

Bruising at all levels is usually caused by trauma. In addition, people can develop bruising as a result of reactions to medications or coagulation disorders. In the case of deep or superficial bruising, people will experience tenderness at the site of the bruise and there may be some discoloration or swelling. Deep bruising can sometimes be a clinical sign in a patient who has not sustained physical trauma and may indicate the presence of leukemia or another blood disorder.

Intramuscular and periosteal bruises are both forms of deep bruising. A risk with this type of bruising is that trauma severe enough to cause damage at that depth can also potentially seriously injure bones and organs. People may have broken bones and other injuries, and could develop an internal hemorrhage caused by breakage of larger blood vessels than those involved in bruising. Patients with deep bruises must be carefully evaluated for signs of additional medical issues.

A deep bruise can be extremely painful. Contact with the bruise can cause a sharp pain and patients may also experience pain if they attempt to move the involved area of the body. Resting and elevating the region while icing it to cut down on swelling can help with deep bruising. Immobilization with a cast or sling can also be used in the early stages of treatment to help the patient avoid pain and tenderness associated with movement.

In some cases, the bruising will resolve on its own after weeks or months. If the pain persists or grows worse, however, it can be a sign that something else is occurring and the patient needs additional treatment. The treatment will not cure the bruise, but should address the related problem so the bruise can finally heal. Patients with a history of deep bruising may want to note it when meeting with a surgeon, as previously injured areas can be scarred or discolored and it is helpful for surgeons to know about old injuries ahead of time.

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.
Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a The Health Board researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments

By anon1002419 — On Nov 17, 2019

Top of my foot, between my toes and ankle, is very sore, no discoloration. Don't know what caused this. Any thoughts?

By anon356199 — On Nov 22, 2013

I have had a bruise upon my left upper leg, back area, since April of this year. It's larger in size than a quarter and it had a white center. At first, it made me feel extremely dizzy/tired. Now it is still there but a second has shown up, this time, a bit higher up on my front side, and it is same exact shape/size/texture and again followed by dizziness, being tired and black vaginal discharge, lasting two days, with only a few times mixed with light red blood specks. My menstrual cycle is two weeks away. This discharge ceased a day ago, but today I'm having light brown discharge, and am still tired, and the bruises are still there.

By anon313896 — On Jan 15, 2013

I was playing basketball and jumped and got a knee in the upper thigh. That was about week ago. There's no bruise and I can bend it. but I can't fully bend it and I get shooting pain all the way down my leg when I move positions for like 30 seconds, then it's fine, and if I move again it hurts again. But I don't really have pain when walking and can run. I just keep getting shooting pains after moving my leg from resting to another resting position. But I have no thigh pain. The pains down my leg go from my knee down.

By anon312497 — On Jan 07, 2013

So does it usually show up? My friend told me that she gets hit on the arms by her brother all the time. She said that at first the bruises showed up, but now they never do and she said they hurt more now too, than before, when they did show up. Is this normal? For them not to show up? Does it mean it's a deeper bruise or could it be because he hits her arms constantly and the tissue just doesn't turn a different color anymore?

By popcorn — On Dec 11, 2011

@animegal - If you are trying to heal a bruise there are a few things you can try to make it stop hurting. When I rammed my shin under a coffee table I was blue for more than a month and all that helped was putting ice on it for 30 minutes a day. I also kept my foot up off the ground.

I think that bruise remedies outside of ice, heat and elevation don't really work. If you're in a lot of pain though I would get your doctor to give you a decent painkiller for your leg. One thing you can try is sleeping with your leg a bit elevated, as I always found my leg felt better in the morning. I think it just needs lots of rest.

By animegal — On Dec 11, 2011

Does anyone know how to treat a deep thigh bruise?

I went to my doctor and she really didn't recommend anything that could really be considered bruise treatment, but to be fair, I am sure she was more worried about my fractured rib. I ended up falling off a horse at my friend's farm and the horse kicked my thigh a little. I am glad its not broken to be honest, but I know the deep bruising is going to take forever to heal. I really hope there is a way to speed things up because my thigh has a hoof print on it, that is a rather unpleasant blue color and it hurts.

By Perdido — On Dec 10, 2011

A deep muscle bruise in the thigh is extremely painful. I got hit in my thigh with a speeding baseball, and I thought it had broken my leg, even though it had only bruised the muscles.

An emergency technician was already on site for the game, so he took a look at my leg. He then gave me a ride to the hospital, where I got x-rays.

The doctor gave me some crutches to walk around on. He also compressed the area with a bandage, which he said would help to stretch it out.

Other than that, he just told me to keep icing it and keep it elevated. I would have to use the crutches for about four weeks.

My thigh felt so tight, and it hurt even when I wasn't moving around. The doctor gave me some pain pills to get through the first week, and after that, he told me to take ibuprofen.

By cloudel — On Dec 10, 2011

@kylee07drg – Your friend is fortunate. Deep knee bruising can cause an emergency situation. My brother injured his in a car accident, and he eventually had to have surgery on it.

The knee he injured seemed to be growing every day. It felt really full and tight, and it was starting to go numb.

He went back to the hospital, and the doctor said he had developed compartment syndrome. This meant that his muscles were swelling so much that they could not fit into their space, so he had to have surgery to relieve the pressure.

I'm glad he had the sense to go to the hospital when he did. The doctor said that compartment syndrome can cause permanent muscle damage if not treated.

By kylee07drg — On Dec 09, 2011

My friend got a deep knee bruise while playing soccer. Another player accidentally kicked the ball super hard right into her knee, and she fell over in agony.

The area started to swell right away. It turned bright pink, and the coach ordered her to apply a bag of ice to it. He then made her go home and put ice on it once an hour for fifteen minutes each time.

She took ibuprofen to calm the swelling. The coach came to visit her the next day, and since the swelling had gone down a little, he knew that she didn't have a broken or fractured bone.

By orangey03 — On Dec 09, 2011

I had some deep bruising on my foot this past summer, and it lasted for about three months. I was rolling a spare car tire along the grass toward the shop when it fell and landed right on top of my foot. That was the heaviest thing ever to fall on me, and the pain made me cry and shout.

I could see a little bit of bluish color on the surface, but the pain went much deeper than that. It seemed to go all the way through my foot. I could not place all my weight on it for days.

Even a month after it happened, I couldn't wash my foot in the shower without feeling intense soreness. I knew I hadn't broken anything, because it could still move around, but that was the deepest bruise I have ever gotten.

Mary McMahon

Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

Learn more
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