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Is it OK to Exercise With a Bad Bruise?

author image Hannah Mich
Since 2007 Hannah Mich has written e-newsletters and been published in the "Missouri Journal of Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance." She has a Bachelor of Science in exercise science from Truman State University and a Master of Education in applied kinesiology from the University of Minnesota.
Is it OK to Exercise With a Bad Bruise?
A woman is stretching in her home. Photo Credit: Wavebreakmedia Ltd/Wavebreak Media/Getty Images

A direct hit to your muscle or bone can cause a bruise, which is bleeding underneath the skin due to tissue damage and broken blood vessels. This can result in mild, moderate or even severe pain that prevents normal movement of the affected muscle. Initial treatment consists of rest, ice, compression and elevation. The location of your bruise and the severity of your symptoms determine if and when you can resume exercising. Consult your physician before performing any exercises.

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Bruises or contusions vary in size and can occur just below the skin, in muscle or on bone. Large bruises on your muscles can cause muscle spasms, muscle weakness, swelling and severe pain. Deeper bruises that affect bone can lead to deep aching pain that worsens when you contract the muscles attached to your injured bone. If the bone bruise is on your thigh, shin or foot, weight-bearing activities may lead to more pain.

Type of Exercise

Avoid high-impact exercises, like running and contact sports, that could aggravate your symptoms. If the bruise is located on your upper body or torso, exercises like cycling on a stationary bike, walking and water walking may be safe. Seated upper-body strength exercises, like dumbbell curls or cycling on an arm ergometer, are excellent exercise options if you have a lower-extremity bruise. With the approval of your physician, light stretching may be beneficial as well.

Precautions and Complications

Do not perform any exercises that cause pain. Pain is a warning signal from your body and exercising through the pain may further damage your muscle or bone. Returning to an exercise routine too early, or progressing too quickly, can slow the healing process and result in complications such as stress fractures, compartment syndrome and myositis ossificans. Compartment syndrome is when swelling and pressure builds up around your muscle. Myositis ossificans is calcification, or bone formation, in your muscle.

Additional Considerations

When you return to exercising, warm up the injured area with a hot pack and easy exercises. To prevent muscle spasms and inflammation, stretch and ice the area after working out. If you are taking pain medication, be aware that those medications may mask pain while exercising. Lastly, your bruise can also be a symptom of a more serious injury, such as a torn muscle, tendon or ligament. If this is the case, you may need additional treatment like physical therapy, or possibly surgery, before you can return to your normal exercise routine.

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