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First Aid and Treatments For Muscle Contusions

Updated on January 25, 2017

Muscle Contusion

Muscles are filled with many blood vessels that range from the tiny to large. If an injury is sustained to the muscle then some of these blood vessels may rupture causing blood to seep between the muscle fibers. When the blood hardens it is called a hematoma and it can cause pain and swelling as it pushes into the muscle. These normally disappear after a week or so (depending on the size of injury) but medical attention may still be required.

This particular type of injury has many names associated with it: orthopedic hematoma, muscle contusion, and good old fashion bruise. However, the latter does not necessarily indicate the severity of the injury.

This injury is caused by blunt trauma that has crushed or severely damaged the underlying muscle fibers and connective tissue without tearing the skin. Athletes are at most risk from this type of injury and it is normally in the thigh that they will experience the problem.

When the trauma occurs the blood vessels can also get damaged and cause blood to leak out into the surrounding tissue. This then causes a clot to appear and in some cases can cause complications if it is putting pressure on sensitive areas or bones.

Symptoms Of A Muscle Contusion

After a fall or other type of trauma there may not be immediately anything wrong with the effected area and you may not feel any pain. This is normally due to the shock of falling, the adrenaline that's flying around your nervous system and then combined with the body's automatic inflammatory response to protect the damaged area. The main symptom after a fall will be pain after the shock has worn off but if the blood vessels have been damaged and are leaking blood then a lump (hematoma) may form at the site because the blood has seeped in between the tissue fibers. A few hours or maybe days later you may notice a bruise as the blood comes to the surface and becomes visible to the eye.

You may also experience swelling, stiffness, tenderness, bruising, localized heat from the injury, and potentially shock if it is severe enough - this is the body's way of protecting the damaged tissue by restricting movement and "padding out" the area. If any of these become severe or you find you cannot move properly without major problems then you will need to see a doctor immediately to rule out any complications of the fall or injury.

Treatment For Mild - Moderate Contusions

If the injury is normal, that is to say without complications, and not severe then the standard RICE treatment will be effective. RICE stands for:

  • Rest: you must rest the injured limb, stop the activity that caused it and any other strenuous activity. If necessary use a sling, crutch, or whatever aids might be needed to support the limb and allow it to heal.
  • Ice: apply ice (wrapped in a clean cloth) for 20 minutes at a time.
  • Compression: lightly wrap the area, make sure that the circulation isn't affected. (See the video below for a "How To ...".
  • Elevation: by raising the limb above heart level you will avoid any pooling of blood leading to prolonged injury or complications. When sitting or lying down use pillows to make yourself comfortable.

It is recommended that NSAIDS are used (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) to relieve pain and to also keep inflammation to a minimum to speed recovery. Over-the-counter relief will normally do the job but check with your pharmacist in case you have negative interactions with them.

After a few days the injury will feel better and you can slowly start to return to normal. However, if you're still in a lot of pain and there in no improvement you should see your doctor to rule out any complications.

If you have bruising then by applying topical Arnica cream (found at your local pharmacy, or through Amazon) you can speed up the healing process. I've found this to be a very easy way of speeding up the healing process, plus the massage help to increase blood flow to the area.

How to Wrap a Quad Contusion

Have you ever had an orthopedic hematoma/muscle contusion/really bad bruise

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This page is for informational purposes and should not replace the attention of a medical provider. If you have any urgent problems then call the emergency services or contact a competent doctor.


By using the proper equipment when playing sports or doing other high impact activities you reduce the risk of injury.

If you are prone to falling then you might want to invest in a walking stick or other support system to help you with your balance. I know a few people who were too embarrassed to use walking aids and then ended up breaking bones. You should never feel embarrassed to have a walking aid as it will make your life easier in the long-term, plus you can build up an awesome collection of walking sticks like me.

When you are out and about, maybe walking in the hills or countryside then I would also recommend investing in some good walking shoes with proper traction on the soles. This will help you to remain on your feet and avoid falls if the ground is wet.


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