A direct hit to your muscle or bone can cause a bruising after exercise, 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.
Exercise could make a bruise worse. Use caution and follow your doctor's orders.
Bruising After Injury
According to an 2013 article published by Clinics in Sports Medicine, unlike bone which heals back to its original form, injured muscle tissue forms scar tissue during the healing process. The article describes three overlapping phases of healing, including the destruction phase, repair phase and remodeling phase.
The destruction phase occurs during the first week after injury. This is when bruising after exercise will most likely be the worst. Gentle movement of the injured area might be encouraged, but formal exercise can make your injury worse. Any activity that increases your pain should be stopped.
Pain and Bruising
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 build up around your muscle. Myositis ossificans is calcification, or bone formation, in your muscle.
Considerations and Bruise Treatment
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.
Last, 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.
- American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons: Muscle Contusion
- Institute for Orthopaedics and Sports Medicines: What Are Muscle Bruises?
- British Journal of Sports Medicine: The Appearance of Kissing Contusion in the Acutely Injured Knee in the Athletes
- Clinics in Sports Medicine: Muscle Contusion (Thigh)