Soft tissue injury or STI is a condition that involves damage to the soft tissues in the body such as muscles, tendons and ligaments. Soft tissue injury most commonly results from sprain, strain and blunt trauma on the soft tissues that may result in contusion. Soft tissue injury excludes fractures because it involves the hard bones. It also excludes crush injuries, hemorrhage and spinal cord compression.
Causes of Soft tissue Injury
Soft tissue injuries are usually common in everyday activities such as in the workplace and sports. Work-related injuries constitute up to 10% of soft tissue injuries while sports injuries constitute up to 5% of soft tissue injuries.
Soft tissue injuries may result in the following conditions:
- Strain- Strains occur when the tendon or muscles are partially torn from overstretching.
- Sprain- Sprain results from overstretching and tearing of the ligaments.
- Rupture- This results from complete tear of a tendon or muscle from overstretching.
- Hematoma or deep bruising- This results when a collection of blood develops in the soft tissues after an injury.
Classifications of Soft tissue Injury
Soft tissue injuries are classified according to the severity of the damage. These include:
- First Degree Tissue Injury
First degree or mild tissue injury involves mild swelling and bruising of the soft tissues as a result of mild stretch to the ligaments, or a mild blow to the muscles. It usually involves pain upon contraction of the muscles or at the end of full range of motion of the joints. There is no loss of function and the joint is usually stable.
- Second degree Tissue injury
Second degree or moderate tissue injury occurs as a result of moderate stretch to the ligaments as well as excessive injury to the muscles causing damage and tearing of some muscle fibers. It involves moderate pain, swelling and bruising. Pain is usually felt upon any movement and it impairs the muscles’ ability to contract. With moderate ligament injuries, the joint affected may become unstable at times. There may also be moderate muscle spasms. There is impaired muscle function as a result of decreased muscle strength.
- Third Degree Tissue Injury
Third degree or severe tissue injury results from an overly stretched or injured ligaments, tendons and muscles. In this type of soft tissue injury, there is a great deal of bruising, swelling and pain. Pain is felt even at rest and impairs the joint and muscle function of the affected area.
Managements of soft tissue injury
Soft tissue injury is usually managed by conservative managements. More aggressive treatments such as surgery may be employed for severe injuries that do not respond to conventional approaches. Managements may include:
Injuries to the ligaments are usually immobilized to prevent further injury to the soft tissue. Immobilization also prevents further pain especially when movement aggravates pain. Slings may also be used for arm and shoulder injuries and crutches may be used to support the weight bearing joints.
RICE involves rest, icing, compression and elevation. All these measures aim at relieving stress on the affected area. Rest allows for complete healing and prevents further injury to the area. Icing relieves swelling and pain. Compression and elevation improves venous return from the area of injury to reduce swelling.
- Physical therapy
Physical therapy and/or chiropractic care, like that performed by Dr. Morh, your local Wesley Chapel chiropractor, is often employed for moderate to severe cases of soft tissue injury that involve impairment in the function of the affected joint or area. Physical therapy aims at rehabilitating the injured area to return to its normal functioning.
Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs are commonly given to patients with soft tissue injury to reduce pain and inflammation.
If severe pain persists for more than 24 hours, a more severe condition is usually suspected so consult to an orthopedic physician is recommended.