Exercise is touted as a must for individuals who are interested in losing weight, promoting good health and slowing — or preventing — the development of certain chronic conditions. While there is no question that the benefits of exercise are numerous, certain drawbacks do exist.
Bruises are a possible, albeit rare, side effect of certain types of physical activity. Be sure to talk with your healthcare provider if your bruises do not show signs of healing within a week.
What Is a Bruise?
A bruise — or contusion, as it is sometimes called — occurs as a result of bleeding under the skin or in the surrounding tissues.
Bruises are traditionally classified into one of three categories, including subcutaneous bruises, or those that occur beneath the skin; intermuscular bruises, or those that occur inside the muscle; and periosteal bruises, or those that occur on the surface of the bone. Both intermuscular and periosteal bruises may occur as a result of participation in an exercise program.
Bruising From Weightlifting
When muscles are placed under stress during weightlifting, or resistance training, they develop a series of tiny tears — and as these tears heal, muscles become stronger and larger.
While this is a normal part of any resistance-training program, individuals who engage in very heavy weightlifting may actually be at risk for the development of intermuscular bruises due to the excessive stress placed on the muscle fibers.
In fact, participating in very intense resistance training can cause enough trauma to the muscle fibers to cause small amounts of blood to be released into nearby tissue. Powerlifting and performing one-repetition maximum lifts are examples of resistance-training exercises that may cause intermuscular bruises.
Bruising After Aerobic Workout
Individuals who notice bruises after participation in aerobic exercise may be suffering from subcutaneous or periosteal bruises. While subcutaneous bruises traditionally occur as a result of trauma — such as falling off your bike while cycling — periosteal bruises may be a sign of a more serious injury.
In fact, periosteal bruises sometimes occur as a result of stress fractures, such as those which afflict endurance runners. Periosteal bruises are not only the most painful, but also take the longest to heal, notes the University of Rochester Medical Center.
Home Remedies for Bruising
According to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, bruises can be treated using the RICE method — rest, ice, compression and elevation.
Take a break from the activity causing you to bruise. Apply ice for up to 20 minutes at a time. Lightly wrap the area with a compression bandage to help control swelling. Elevate the injured area above the level of your heart.
When to Seek Help
While most bruises heal own their own, individuals who suffer from severe cases of intermuscular or periosteal bruises may require medical treatment. Talk with your healthcare provider if you develop a bruise after exercise that has not begun to heal after one week.
If you have, in fact, developed a periosteal bruise as a result of a stress fracture, you may need medical treatment and might be encouraged to undergo surgery.
Similarly, exercisers who develop intermuscular bruises may need long periods of rest and medical supervision to ensure a full recovery.