Category: Spine | Author: Stefano Sinicropi | Date: March 27, 2018
Everyone has suffered a bruise at one point or another in their life, but not everyone has suffered a bone bruise. Bruises to muscles and soft tissues are more common, but you can in fact bruise your bones. So what happens when you suffer a bone bruise, and how can you treat a bone bruise of the spine? We answer those questions below.
Causes and Symptoms of a Spinal Bone Bruise
Your bone is made up of varying tissue. There’s the periosteum, which is a thin layer of tissue that covers and protects most of the bone. Then there’s the subchondral bone, which is where the bones come together, and there’s the medulla, which is the area deep inside the bone that contains the marrow and trabeculae.
A fracture involves a break in the trabeculae, but in a bruise, there is just traumatic damage and no actual break in this area. You may also experience pooling of blood underneath the top layer, the periosteum, or you could deal with swelling and bleeding in the subchondral area if the trauma occurs near the connection of two bones.
The most common cause of a bone bruise is an acute injury from trauma. Things like athletic activity, falls, motor vehicle accidents or being struck by an object can all traumatize bones without leading to a fracture. Other factors that can contribute to bone bruises include twisting injuries that cause joint sprains, and arthritis, which can lead to subchondral area friction and bruising.
Symptoms of a spinal bone bruise include:
- Regionalize pain
- Local tenderness
- Back stiffness
- Pain that worsens with movement or pressure
Treating Spinal Bone Bruises
Interestingly, although bone fractures show up on a standard X-ray, bone bruises do not. This makes sense, because you’re looking for swelling or fluid pooling, which doesn’t show up on an X-ray. A doctor may use an X-ray to rule out a fracture or disc injury, but a bone bruise is best viewed using an MRI.
How long symptoms of a bone bruise last depend on the location of the bruise and the severity of the injury. That good news is that even severe bone bruises can usually be treated with conservative care options. The most common treating options for spinal bone bruises include resting the area, cold therapy, taking anti-inflammatory medications and taking a break from sporting activities. In some instances, your doctor may recommend a spinal brace to help immobilize the area, or they’ll offer diet tips to increase your calcium and Vitamin D intake. Some types of over-the-counter pain meds can actually inhibit healing, so talk to your doctor about your medication management before starting a new regimen.
Most bone bruises will heal after 4-8 weeks of conservative treatment. If symptoms don’t get better, or they get worse, contact your spine specialist because you may be dealing with a more severe bruise, and if it’s not getting healthy blood flow, it can actually lead to permanent bone damage. For more information about spinal bone bruises, reach out to Dr. Sinicropi today.