A bone bruise on your knee — also called a knee contusion — occurs when fluid builds in and around your kneecap, leading to severe pain. A bone bruise can be also accompanied by other bone damage like a fracture or break. After an intense injury like a bone bruise, your doctor may order imaging tests to see if you sustained additional bone damage.
Your doctor may also prescribe physical therapy to help you regain mobility and speed up your recovery time. Physical therapists will likely set recovery goals for you so that you can measure and track your progress.
The symptoms of a bone bruise can include:
- Long-lasting pain and tenderness around your kneecap.
- Pain in your knee when extending your leg.
- Changes in skin color around the injury.
What causes a bone bruise on the knee?
The most common cause of a bone bruise on the knee is blunt impact. This is especially true for people who have osteoarthritis in their knees. Osteoarthritis is the degradation of the protective cartilage that surrounds the joints. As a result, when an accident like a fall happens without ample cartilage to cushion it, the blow to the knee bone itself can be severe.
At the point of impact, blood can pool into areas of the bone and cause a bone bruise. For example, an injury may cause bleeding and swelling in the area between your cartilage and the bone beneath it. This leads to a subchondral bone bruise.
How long is the recovery time for a bone bruise on the knee?
Depending on the type of your bone bruise, its severity and its surrounding complications, it can take anywhere between three weeks to two years to fully heal.
Physical therapy can help decrease your recovery time with a combination of treatments that help reduce the swelling and inflammation in your knee, as well as regain its strength, stability and range of motion.
Common recovery goals for physical therapy patients who have a knee bone bruise
A bruise on your knee bone can restrict your most basic activities. A full recovery is therefore crucial to returning to your former activity levels.
Physical therapists can work with you to meet recovery goals that are both realistic and effective. If you meet the following recovery goals, you and your physical therapist are on the right track:
- Stand up after sitting for any length of time.
Because a bruised knee bone often coincides with arthritis of the knee, the ability to stand after sitting can be very difficult and painful. With arthritis, the ligaments in the knee may rub against the bruised knee bone without much cushion, causing sharp pain and limited mobility. A bone bruise can also be accompanied by microfractures that add to pain.
Thankfully, physical therapy for knee bone bruises can help to restore the knee’s range of motion and stability so that you can stand comfortably. Standing up after sitting, and without much pain, can indicate a major step toward recovery.
- Walk without pain.
Physical therapy for knee bone bruises can help increase knee strength, allowing patients to walk without pain faster. Therapies such as instrument-assisted soft tissue mobilization (IASTM) can help restore the connective tissue, and manual therapy can help increase the strength of surrounding muscles so that you can go from point A to point B with limited difficulty. Your physical therapist may also evaluate your gait and balance as you build your stamina. Doing so with little to no pain is a major goal for recovery.
- Carry objects while walking.
The knees already bear the weight of the upper body, so adding additional weight to a walking routine by carrying an object can increase pain. However, physical therapy can help the knee to not only bear the body’s weight, but an object’s weight as well. If you can walk while carrying a few extra pounds and still feel comfortable, your bruised kneecap is on its way to full healing.
Alliance PTP can help you find top-notch PT for your bone bruise
If you’ve suffered from a bone contusion, you may benefit from physical therapy. At Alliance Physical Therapy Partners, we’re proudly bringing together physical therapy practices across the country to help people get the high-quality PT they need. Want to see a physical therapist in person? We can put you in touch with an Alliance PTP partner that’s close to you and that can help you address your bruised kneecap.
Not keen on in-person PT sessions or not close to an Alliance PTP partner? No worries. We also offer effective and affordable virtual physical therapy through our Agile Virtual Physical Therapy platform.
Contact our team today so we can help you find the most effective physical therapy services for your condition.
*Note: This article is a revision of one originally posted by Alliance Physical Therapy partner Arrow Physical Therapy & Rehabilitation.