What is contusion injury?
A contusion is more commonly known as a bruise. When your body is injured, blood vessels can break under your skin. This causes the blood to pool under the skin, leaving a mark.
Contusions are characterized by the degree of their impact on your body:
- First degree – These are not a cause for concern. They cause minimal swelling and pain and typically disappear after a few days.
- Second degree – These bruises are darker with more pain, tenderness, and swelling around the bruise. You won’t experience loss of movement unless the bruise is on a joint like your knees.
- Third degree – You experience major swelling and pain at the sight of the bruise. Third degree bruises may leave you concerned that something worse is wrong because of their severity.
Signs and symptoms of a contusion injury
The most common symptom of a contusion is discoloration of the skin, which can appear pink, red, purple, blue, or brown depending on the severity.
For small, superficial bruises you may not have pain, but larger and deeper bruises are very painful, even limiting the movement of joints that are nearby. Swelling around the site of the contusion is also common.
What causes a contusion injury?
An impact on your body usually causes a contusion injury. You may bump your arm on the corner of your kitchen counter or fall while playing soccer. The force of impact determines the severity of your contusion.
Some medical conditions make you more susceptible to severe bruising. If you bruise easily or often, it may be a sign that there is an underlying health issue.
Diabetes and blood disorders like hemophilia and leukemia are to blame for some cases of easy bruising. Medications are also a factor, so check the side effects of any prescriptions if you have concerns.
Age is also a factor in bruising. Young children are clumsier and more likely to get bruises. Since their skin is thinner, bruises are more obvious. Similarly, your blood vessels and skin are less resilient as you age, leading to easier bruising in old age.
How is a contusion injury diagnosed?
Visual observation is sufficient for diagnosing a contusion. If you have a bruise that concerns you, call your doctor to ask what you should do. Reasons to call your doctor for a contusion include:
- Your bruise is not improving two weeks after the impact occurred
- You bruise easily and can’t remember how you got your bruises
- Your bruise is swelling and painful
- You can't move a joint or suspect a broken bone
- Your bruise is near your eye
Treatments for a contusion injury
At home, you can treat your contusions using the RICE method, which stands for rest, ice, compression, and elevation:
- Rest – You want your contusion to heal quickly, and rest is an important factor. Avoid putting pressure on the affected area.
- Ice – rest a bag of ice on the contusion 3-4 times a day for 20 minutes each time. Place a towel between your skin and the bag of ice. If you don’t have ice, a bag of frozen vegetables works, too.
- Compression – using an ace bandage, wrap the area affected by the contusion to reduce swelling. This is not advised for all injuries, so ask your doctor before using this method of treatment.
- Elevation – Sit or lie down and prop up the area of your body that has a contusion. It should be above your heart to help reduce swelling.
You can also take over-the-counter medications like NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) for inflammation and pain. If the bruising occurs in a child, talk to your pediatrician before giving any medication.
For severe contusions, physical therapy is important to the healing process. A physical therapist helps you stretch and practice moving so that you may restore full range of motion.
If your hip or leg is bruised, you may need crutches or a walker to move around. If your bruise is near a joint, a brace helps to keep your joint in a set position so movement doesn’t irritate your contusion.
If you strained, sprained, or tore a muscle or a bone, surgery is necessary in some cases. This repair ensures that additional damage isn’t done to the affected area.
Remember, a contusion isn’t a medical condition of its own. It’s a symptom of something else. A bruise shows your body where damage was done and gives you an idea of how severe it is.
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West Virginia University Medicine: "Bruises: Types and treatments."
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