You hit the shower after a good run and the notice them — those black and blue marks on your legs that you weren't expecting. They may come from an actual injury, or from exercise-induced bruising. In either case, bruising after running isn't unusual, even when you're not sure what caused it.
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The Black ‘n’ Blues
Sometimes bruising after running isn't a total surprise to you, even if the extent of it was more than you expected. After all, if you fall or smack into something while running, there won't be much mystery about the cause of your bruise.
But that's often cold comfort in the immediate aftermath of the blow. The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons advises that the degree of discoloration, swelling and tenderness of the area will let you know how serious it is.
Unless your symptoms worsen or change, the usual RICE (rest, ice, compression, elevation) treatment at home should be all you need for this type of bruising after running. But if the rest of your leg begins to swell or the pain gets more intense, it may indicate complications like myositis ossificans and may require immediate medical attention.
Feeling the Pressure
There's plenty of emphasis put on what running does to strengthen your legs. But there's not always much acknowledgment that running can also have negative effects on leg muscles.
Specifically, pressure between muscles, as well as inside them, can cut off blood flow. One consequence of this is known as compartment syndrome, for which bruising can be a symptom. Bruised shins are the most likely site of compartment syndrome in terms of discoloration. Tightness and pain are also related to compartment syndrome.
Does this mean you need to give up running in order to reduce unexplained bruising on legs? Only in acute cases. Often, if the related pain isn't too severe, switching up your running surface may help, notes Cleveland Clinic. Specialized footwear and anti-inflammatory medicine can also make a difference.
Read more: My Leg Feels Heavy When Running
Seemingly unexplained bruising on legs may actually stem from a minor incident that you just don't remember. Some people are prone to bruising easily, making even a painless bump on a park bench while you were stretching result in vivid black and blue marks on your shins or thighs.
Mayo Clinic notes that getting older can bring on more unexplained bruising on legs, particularly for women. Thinning skin results in the underlying blood vessels being less protected from jolts, even minor ones. Certain medications can also either interfere with the ability of blood to circulate freely without pooling near the surface, or can thin the blood.
If the bruising becomes a constant issue, talk you your doctor. She may suggest switching medications. In addition, your diet may be deficient in certain vitamins and minerals, and taking vitamins may help.
Strains and Bruising After Running
Another common site for exercise-induced bruising to occur is on the backs of your legs. Hamstring injuries are common in runners. Normally you'll feel it if you "pull a hammy." But you may not be expecting the related discoloration that comes with sprained or torn leg muscles.
Strained and torn leg muscles, whether on the thighs, calves or elsewhere, will probably also come with swelling and pain, or at least tenderness. According to the American Council on Exercise, minor injuries will probably clear up in a week or two, especially with RICE treatment. But if they don't, you may need physical therapy or surgery.
- American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons: "Muscle Contusion (Bruise)"
- Cleveland Clinic: "Compartment Syndrome"
- Mayo Clinic: "Easy Bruising: Why Does It Happen?"
- National Institute for Fitness and Sport: "50 Shades of Bruise: Non-Contact Contusions After a Workout"
- Mayo Clinic: "Hamstring Injury"
- American Council on Exercise: "How to Train a Client With Chronic Injuries"