A soft tissue injury involves damage to the soft structures in the musculoskeletal system such as the tendons, ligaments and muscles. Tendons are tough fibrous bands that attach the muscles to the adjacent bones while ligaments attach bones to bones and your local Lutz chiropractor may be able to help with any or all of these.
Soft tissue injuries are usually a result of a sudden injury and repeated overuse of the structures. They can result from the wear and tear of the soft tissues and they can also result from a sudden twist or fall.
Generally, soft tissue injuries include sprains, strains, bursitis, contusions and tendonitis. The following discusses each of the soft tissue injuries and the appropriate managements:
Sprains are injuries relating to the ligament wherein there is a partial or complete rupture (tear) to a particular ligament as a result of overextension of a joint. Sprains can happen in most joints, but the most commonly affected parts are the wrist, knees, and ankles. Sprains can be further classified into the following:
- Grade I or Mild Sprains- This involves minimum swelling and pain and does not involve loss of function or range of motion.
- Grade II or Moderate Sprains- Moderate sprains involve a partial tear on the ligament and may include pain, swelling, bruising and some forms of loss of function.
- Grade III or Severe Sprains- This involves complete tear on the ligament with most symptoms of inflammation present.
Strains are similar to sprains in symptoms, but involve the tendons or the muscles. These usually develop from pulling or twisting the muscles and tendons and may also occur as a result of overuse injuries. Strains are commonly sustained during sporting activities and other high impact exercises. The most commonly strained muscle is the hamstring muscles. Acute strains may occur from an incorrect lifting technique and chronic strains can result from repetitive trauma such as those with elbow problems due to playing tennis.
Bursitis on the other hand is the inflammation of the bursa, a sac located on the joints allowing the tendon to move over the bone during movement. The bursa is a fluid filled sac and can sustain tears during high impact activities.
Contusions are forms of hematoma or blood clot formation resulting from a sudden blunt force to a muscle. The collection of blood on the muscles results in swelling, pain, tenderness, heavy feeling and discoloration (usually reddish to purple).
Tendonitis is specific to the tendons and involves inflammation of the tough fibrous tissue as a result of a sudden tear or gradual exposure to tension. A common type is the Achilles tendonitis, which is inflammation of the Achilles tendon in the heels.
Treatment for Soft Tissue Injuries
Soft tissue injuries are primarily managed similarly. Common treatments include:
- Rest- Rest is a basic management for any musculoskeletal injury to prevent further damage and allows the affected area to restore without undue tension.
- Ice- Applying cold compress is also an initial management to prevent further limitation. Application of cold packs prevents further swelling during the acute phase of injury by constricting the blood vessels. It also offers pain relief by numbing the nerves along the affected body part.
- Compression- Application of compression bandages helps immobilize the area and also helps prevent further swelling.
- Elevation- Elevating the affected extremity also prevents further swelling by allowing improved venous return.
- Medications- Since pain and inflammation is a common symptom, anti-inflammatory medications and analgesics are commonly prescribed.
Soft tissue injuries are highly preventable. With the use of proper body mechanics, adequate warm up and cool down measures in every activity and avoidance of overwork, soft tissue injuries can be prevented effectively.