Contusion

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elbow with bruise damage after blood test close-up isolated on white background.

A contusion is an injury that causes damage to blood vessels and leakage of blood and fluids into the surrounding tissues. This type of injury is also more commonly referred to as a bruise. The two primary types of contusion are (a) those affecting the skin and/or muscles , and (b) those affecting bone tissue.

Causes

Most contusions are the result of falling , colliding with something or someone or receiving a blow or kick.

Those most at risk of experiencing this type of injury include:

  • Children and teenagers, who tend to be accident prone, especially when playing;
  • Athletes in contact sports like football, basketball & hockey;
  • Athletes in sports in which falls are common, such as soccer, rugby and even snowboarding;
  • Being in a motor vehicle accident increases your risk of experiencing contusions;
  • If you have a tendency to experience blood clots, you also have a higher risk of experiencing a contusion;
  • Blood thinning medications such as aspirin can also increase your risk of bruising;
  • Receiving an injection or vaccination, or donating blood can cause minor contusions as a result of the needle breaking the skin.

Symptoms

The most typical symptoms of a contusion are:

  • Discoloration of the skin in the vicinity of the bruise. It usually turns blue or purple initially and then may turn yellow.
  • Pain & tenderness in the region of the bruise;
  • Swelling in some cases;
  • If you have experienced a bone contusion, your pain may last longer than with a soft tissue bruise.
  • However, you will probably experience more severe pain with a skin bruise than with a bone contusion.

Diagnosis

Your doctor will most likely perform a physical examination of the skin in the region of the bruising. If he or she thinks you may have suffered a bone contusion, an X Ray imaging scan may be requested. It will help to rule out the possibility of a broken bone.

Treatment

Most contusions (whether of the bone or soft tissue) will resolve on their own. As a result, doctors will treat a contusion by suggesting an R.I.C.E. (rest, ice, compression and elevation) strategy. This will involve:

  1. Resting the injured body part to allow the bcontusion to heal naturally;
  2. Regularly applying ice to the affected area to control pain and swelling. A cold pack may also be applied in lieu of ice. A typical recommendation would be to apply ice  or a cold pack for periods of approximately  20 minutes at a time and at intervals of 2-3 hours. Be careful to use a wet towel or other insulating material to avoid the ice or cold pack directly contacting your skin;
  3. Compressing the bruise with a tensor bandage to increase blood circulation through the injured area;
  4. Whenever possible, keeping the affected area above heart level to improve drainage of blood and/or lymphatic fluids from the contusion.
  5. For a bone contusion, you may receive a prescription for anti inflammatory medications such as Advil or ibuprofen. They will provide additional help in reducing the pain and swelling;
  6. Again for some types of bone contusion, your doctor may recommend wearing an orthopedic brace. This will  allow the injured limb or joint additional scope to rest and heal naturally;
  7. Another possible treatment for a bone contusion could be additional intake of vitamin D or calcium. These are well known bone nutrients that will help to promote healing.

In most cases, these treatments will successfully resolve the contusion and no additional intervention is necessary.

However, should there be no improvement in symptoms after a few days, you should arrange another visit to your doctor for an additional consultation.

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