Soft Tissue Injuries
What is Soft Tissue?
Our bodies are made up of a range of structures including soft tissue, organs, and bones (hard tissue). Soft tissues include nerves, muscles, tendons, ligaments, fascia, skin, vessels as well as joint membranes, fat and fibrous tissue. They enable us to move, support organs and joints and connect various structures within our bodies.
When you see a Physiotherapist for management of a soft tissue injury, it will most commonly be due to trauma or overuse to one or more of the following:
- Nerve – transmits signals to and from the brain to enable to you to feel, move and keep your organs functioning
- Muscle – groups of fibres that contract and relax to produce joint movement
- Tendon – tough, slightly elastic connective tissue that attaches muscles to bone
- Ligament – inelastic connective tissue that connects bone to bone, providing stability to a joint
What happens when I have a Soft Tissue Injury?
Soft tissue injuries may be associated with pain, swelling and bruising and may be the result one of the following:
- Direct trauma – impact on the soft tissue creating injury e.g. muscle cork
- Sprain – over-stretching of a joint creating tears part/all of the ligament
- Strain – over-stretching or overloading creating tears part/all of the fibres of a muscle and/or tendon
- Overuse – repeated friction, pulling, twisting or compression creating micro-trauma that builds up over time and may weaken the soft tissue
If you suffer an acute (or sudden) soft tissue injury, a healing reaction known as an ‘inflammatory response’ is started within the body. As a result, the body will send blood containing a variety of healing cells to the area. The acute inflammatory response may last for around 2-3 weeks, during which time you can still experience pain and swelling. If a sprain or strain has occurred ‘scar tissue’ is formed in an attempt to mend the tear to ligament, muscle or tendon.
Two principles which assist with sudden soft tissue injury in the first 1-3 days include:
- RICER – rest, ice, compress, elevate and referral
- No HARM – avoid heat, alcohol, running or massage
One of the most significant risks for soft tissue injuries is prior injury and this is where adequate rehabilitation of a soft tissue injury is very important. Whilst most mild-moderate soft tissue injuries can begin to feel quite normal within 6 weeks, the best quality soft tissue rehabilitation programs should last around 12 or more weeks to reduce the risk of recurrent injury.
Your physiotherapist at Goulburn Physiotherapy Centre will assist with your desired goals through management to minimise the effects of swelling and pain, before helping to increase mobility and strength of the injured soft tissue. This management may include compression, joint mobilisation, stretching, strength and balance exercises, trigger point dry needling or taping to suggest a few of the treatment techniques used by our Physiotherapists.
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