The most common soft tissue injuries are to muscles, tendons and ligaments often occurring during sport and exercise however everyday activities can also result in injury.
Soft-Tissue injuries, ligament sprains, muscle strains and tendon overload!
What are soft tissues?
In general terms all the squishy stuff that’s not bone!
Muscles connect to tendons which connect to bone providing movement. Ligaments connect bone to bone creating stable joints. Bursae sit between tendons and bone reducing friction. Capsules surround joints to protect and nourish.
The most common soft tissue injuries are to muscles, tendons and ligaments often occurring during sport and exercise however everyday activities can also result in injury. Most are a result of a sudden unplanned or uncontrolled movement like tripping on a curb and rolling your ankle or straining your back gardening.
Tissue overload, overuse and fatigue may also cause injury. Something simple like redecorating can cause injury if the physical task exceeds the individual’s normal level of activity. Consider the amount of gripping involved in stripping back old decoration, sanding down, priming and painting with brush or roller. Rarely is the job completed in a couple of hours, more likely to require a weekend or more to complete.
Repetitive gripping of tools, sandpaper, brushes and rollers far exceeds the level of normal activity for the forearm muscles which unsurprisingly tire and stiffen. Without adequate rest the repetitive nature of the task causes trauma or strain (overload) to the tendon which attaches the forearm muscles to the elbow bone resulting in pain and reduced movement.
Ankle sprains, back strains, knee ligament tears, whiplash, bruising, tendon overuse/overload (Tendinopathy), inflamed Bursae (bursitis) and capsular restrictions (frozen shoulder) are soft-tissue injuries that even with appropriate treatment, may require a prolonged amount of time to recover completely.
Soft tissue injuries are classified as acute or overuse.
- Acute injuries are caused by trauma often sudden, such as a fall, twist or direct blow to the area. Knee and ankle ligaments, groin and hamstring strains are regular soft tissue injuries for footballers especially those who play on 3G surfaces thought to be due to the manufactured surface not having the dynamic properties of grass.
- Achilles and hamstring tears are acute injuries that often occur in explosive athletic events such as jumping, sprinting and racquet sports.
- A fall in the garden, trip on a pavement, slip in the supermarket can all cause acute bruising and swelling.
- Overuse injuries come on gradually overtime often due to repetitive activity. Without enough time to rest and recover from the repetitive activity tendons and bursae become irritable and sore. Digging over the garden, taking up a new gym routine or sport, increasing training frequency and repetitive keyboard work are often triggers.
- Tennis and golfers elbow, Achilles, patellar and hamstring tendonitis (tendinopoathy), hip and shoulder bursitis are commonly seen, treated and settled.
The majority of soft tissue injuries will resolve given time and input. Initially you should call the POLICE! Well actually you should follow the POLICE process within the first 72 hours of acute injury.
P – Protection.
braces, crutches, frames, avoid movements that aggravate injured tissue.
OL – Optimum Load.
Keep the tissue moving and weight bear as tolerated within a comfortable range. On first moving from a period of rest the tissue will be stiff and sore. This is normal. Keep on with movement and the soreness will subside.
I – Ice
Applying ice to the area will reduce inflammation, swelling and help improve pain. Ensure you wrap the ice in a damp cloth before placing onto your skin to avoid ice burns.
Ice for 20 minutes every two hours that you are awake.
C – Compression
Compression may be helpful in reducing inflammation such as a Tubigrip.
E – Elevation
Keep the body part elevated when sitting/resting.
You may find medication helpful with the pain, try and avoid anti-inflammatories for the first 72 hours to allow your white blood cells to flood to the area and begin the healing process. Continue to load and move the tissue as able. Symptoms should be settling within 2-4 weeks.
Soft tissue injuries are really rewarding to treat. If you have any concerns or worries please make an appointment with one of the FP Physiotherapists who will be happy to help.