Despite the name making it sound like a simple bruise, a bone bruise is a lot more painful and the pain lasts longer than the giant swelling of a bruise on the skin or in the muscle.

Despite the name making it sound like a simple bruise, a bone bruise is a lot more painful and the pain lasts longer than the giant swelling of a bruise on the skin or in the muscle.

In fact, it's one step before a bone fracture. Here's what you need to know about bone bruises 5.

How Does a Bone Bruise Happen?

Bones are composed of a network of fibers that help retain calcium, a mineral in the body that keeps bones healthy and strong. If a bone is damaged extensively enough, many of these tiny fibers will break, resulting in a fracture. A bone bruise occurs when only a few of the fibers break.

This condition, which is also called a periosteal hematoma, occurs when the outer layer of a bone, called the cortex, sustains small breaks following injury or trauma 12. If you're taking medication that thins your blood, you may be at greater risk for bone bruises.

Read more: 10 Common Workout Injuries and How to Avoid Them

Bone Bruise Symptoms

  • When the shoulder is affected, your range of motion can be limited and weakness may be present. This makes activities like bathing and dressing quite challenging. 
  • Bone bruising in the knee or shin can lead to difficulty with walking and balance 12. Stiffness with bending or straightening the knee may also occur. 
  • If the ankle or foot are affected, standing and walking are often extremely painful and crutches may be necessary to assist with your mobility. In addition, swelling may develop below the injured area in the forefoot or toes. * Bruising to the tailbone causes pain with sitting, particularly on hard surfaces, and can limit your ability to ride in a car.&nbsp 10; :

How Do You Diagnose a Bone Bruise?

The most common way to diagnose a bone bruise is to get an MRI. This method of imaging enables you to assess the amount of damage to the bone and the layers that have been affected.

In addition, it allows your physician to see the bleeding and swelling that can occur in the area. While an x-ray can help to rule out a fracture, it is not useful when looking for a bone bruise (see reference 3, section 1).

Bone Bruise vs. Muscle or Skin Bruise

It can be tricky to differentiate between a run-of-the-mill bruise on your muscle or skin and a deeper bone bruise. Typically the symptoms of a bone bruise stick around much longer than one on your skin or muscle and are the result of a more significant trauma or injury.

In addition, bone bruises typically lead to significant swelling which in turn can cause stiffness in nearby joints. On the contrary, muscle or skin bruises heal more rapidly and usually don't affect your mobility as greatly.

Bone Bruise vs. Fracture

Since both bone bruises and fractures can result from similar trauma, it's important to know which one you're dealing with 4. The pain from fractures tends to be sharper in nature while bone bruises may cause a deeper, more achy type of pain.

In addition, feelings of instability and even visible deformities in the skin can accompany a fracture while these usually aren't seen with a bruise. Because these two serious conditions are commonly confused, it is important to see your doctor if you are experiencing any of the symptoms above so that you can be properly diagnosed and treated.

Bone Bruise Treatments

Immediately after injury, apply an ice pack to the area to reduce pain and swelling. An ice pack can be applied over a wet towel for 10 to 15 minutes every 3 to 4 hours. Ice is typically used for 2 to 3 days after injury or until swelling has subsided.

Thereafter, heat can be applied to decrease pain and promote healing. Heat is typically applied for 15 to 20 minutes at a time for 3 to 4 days. Place a towel between your skin and the heat source (heat pack or hot water bottle) to reduce the risk of burns.

Other important treatments are to rest and elevate the injured area as much as possible, as well as take an over the counter anti-inflammatory pain medication such as ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) or naproxen (Aleve). Resting allows the body to generate new bone tissue without stressing the injured area.

Depending on the severity, patients may continue light activity wearing a splint, elastic bandage or athletic tape, while more severe cases may need crutches or a sling to prevent any more damage and allow for healing.

Read more: 5 Surprising Foods to Eat for Strong Bones

When Should I Go to a Doctor for a Bone Bruise?

  • You don’t see improvement, or if swelling increases, after 3 or 4 days of icing, resting and anti-inflammatory pain medication.
  • If you have pain while stretching or bearing weight in either leg.
  • If the skin is pale and cool below the injury.

What Do YOU Think?

Have you ever had a bone bruise 567? Or fractured a bone? What did you do 5? What did your doctor tell you 7? What kinds of treatments helped you heal? Share your stories and questions in the comments below!