How a Contusion Heals

First, what exactly is a contusion? A contusion is simply the fancy medical term for a bruise. Contusions happen for many reasons such as surgeries, falls, fights, and bumping into a hard object. Most people have experienced a contusion at some point in their lives, and there really are no set methods for their avoidance. Contusions will go through a series of changes beginning soon after appearing and can possibly take at least four weeks to heal (some take longer.)

Explanation of a Contusion

When an injury occurs which is forceful enough to traumatize the tissue and/or bone beneath the skin. The force of the injury causes the damaged tissue(s) to break and bleed and there is usually a degree of pain associated with the contusion ranging from none at all, mild to moderate, and even severe. Contusions, themselves, are generally not life-threatening injuries, but there are signs to look for when contusions occur that may have a deeper meaning other than injury/surgery such as:

* A contusion that appears “out of the blue” is definitely something to look into. Contusions that appear for no sensible reason may be a sign of a serious underlying condition. When an unexplainable contusion appears, a physician should be contacted as soon as possible to try and get to the bottom of things. He or she will likely perform blood tests to check for certain illnesses such as leukemia or hemophilia.

* Contusion(s) that doesn’t show signs of lightening ( healing ) after 1-2 weeks post injury.

* If there are any protrusion(s), such as bone fragmentation, that are visible or felt underneath the contusion. If this is the case, there is the possibility of a bone fracture which needs medical treatment.

* Contusions that appear around the eye(s) can be a sign of underlying problems. Look for the appearance of fresh ( red ) blood to pool within the contusion and surrounding area, bleeding from the contusion or eye(s), and if noticeable vision problems/disturbances are emerging.

Stage 1 Healing

Contusion healing should be a noticeable event that is seen over a period of about 1-4 weeks. At first, the contusion may be deep red, or a shade of red, which is a sign that injury or trauma has occurred in the area. The red color indicates that blood is evident just beneath the skin. This is a normal part of the contusion healing process in most cases. Some mild swelling, tenderness, and pain, will probably present.

Blood being present underneath the contusion is a healthy sign unless any of the previous warning signs are legitimate. The red blood cells of the affected area are processed out of the body by the liver which is the reasoning behind the changing of the color of the contusion(s). When red blood cells do not get recycled quickly enough, yellowing of the skin and/or eyes may appear, just like that of a newborn with jaundice. This is similar to what causes the color changes noticed as a contusion heals.

Stage 2 Healing

After the first two to three days, the contusion should change color(s) unless it is a deep bone contusion, or deep muscle contusion. In those cases, the healing time, as well as color lightening, may take a few days longer. The contusion should go from the shade of red which appeared subsequently following the injury or surgery, to a more black or purple shade, or just a completely purple or black shade.

The change in color may seem frightening because of the new, and maybe darker, shade the contusion has taken on, but this is typical of the contusion healing process. The reasoning behind the new shade of the contusion is that the substance that is responsible for transporting and carrying the iron found in healthy oxygenated blood (hemoglobin) transforms. The new blood supply to the contusion’s broken blood vessels and tissues is beginning to try to repair the area naturally. As with many bodily injuries, healing begins from the inside out.

Stage 3 Healing

Four to seven days after the contusion appeared, there should be yet another change in it’s shade. Again, if the contusion is deep within the muscle or a bone contusion, this stage may take a little longer to progress into. Swelling may still be present if the contusion was severe enough to warrant the area to swell, and pain will likely be present as well. The contusion may now appear to be more of a light purple to a green/yellow combination, or just be one of the noted shades completely. Yet again, this is normal with the contusion’s healing process and should be no cause for alarm.

The new shade is evident because the blood vessels and tissue have been under repair by the fresh oxygenated blood supply. Over the past few days, the body has been hard at work to heal the traumatized area by rebuilding new cells and healthy tissue reformation. This lightening of the contusion signifies a good healthy recovery to the affected area.

Stage 4 Healing

Eight to possibly 14 days after the contusion occurred, lightening of the shade from the previous color change should be evident. The area beneath the skin which took the traumatizing impact which caused the contusion should be almost completely healed now. Some mild discoloration such as green or yellowing of the skin itself may still be present as the body continues to heal from the inside out. It is possible to have some slightly to moderately different shades of discoloration surrounding the perimeter of the contusion. This just means that the darker area (or different colored area) is still working hard to heal along with the rest of the contusion.

By the fourteenth day of healing, the discoloration may be almost completely unnoticeable, to just barely noticeable. There may still be a very slight tenderness to the area at this time, but swelling and/or moderate to severe pain should not be present. As stated before, if the contusion was deep within a muscle or a bone, this stage may take a little longer to reach, and swelling/pain may still be fairly present until the area is healed a little further.


Applying a wrapped ice pack to the area for fifteen to twenty minutes every hour to two hours can speed the contusion healing process. Also, elevation of the area with the contusion, above the heart if possible, can help hasten recovery time. If pain is persistent or troublesome, a physician may prescribe a painkiller or advise that an over-the-counter pain reliever should be taken on an as-needed basis (PRN). Getting proper rest, eating healthy, and avoiding further injury during the healing process can also speed recovery time.