soft tissue injuries

What Are Soft Tissue Injuries and What Are the Different Types?

By Gladiator Therapeutics

May 1, 2023

Soft tissues are cell groups that work together to cover, connect, support, or surround bones and organs. The term commonly refers to muscles, tendons, fascia, and other tissue types. Because soft tissues are in constant use, they are highly prone to injury. Soft tissue injuries typically entail damage to muscles, ligaments, and tendons. These injuries can occur during exercise, sports, training, or even regular activities when performed carelessly.

Soft tissue injuries can affect various body parts and disrupt life for physically active people. The best way to avoid them is to know their nature and types.

Causes and Types of Soft Tissue Injuries Explained

Now that you know the answer to, ‘What are soft tissue injuries?’, it’s time to explore their causes. Soft tissue injuries are generally classified into two categories: acute injuries and overuse injuries.

Acute types of soft tissue injuries are caused by a traumatic event, such as a fall, twist, or blow to the body. Examples include sprains, strains, and contusions.

Overuse injuries occur gradually over time and are especially common in athletes. It’s when an activity is repeated so often that the body does not have time to heal – think tendinitis or bursitis.

A few different soft tissue injury types are as follows.

1. Sprains

Most of us have sprained a muscle at least once in our lifetimes. Indeed, they’re one of the most recurrent types of soft tissue injuries.

A sprain is a stretch or tear in a ligament- the strong band of tissue connecting bones. They are often classed by severity into grade 1 (mild), grade 2 (moderate), and grade 3 (severe).

  • Grade 1: Slight stretching and minimal damage to the ligament fibers.
  • Grade 2: Partial tear in the ligament and abnormal looseness in the joint when moved in certain ways.
  • Grade 3: Complete tear of the ligament, causing significant instability.

While the degree may vary, all types of sprains exhibit these symptoms:

  • Pain, swelling, and bruising in the affected area
  • Hearing a ‘pop’ sound at the time of injury

The best way to treat these soft tissue injuries is to follow the RICE protocol: Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation. You may also need to immobilize the sprained area to let the injury heal completely. If the pain is too severe to manage, ask your doctor for prescription painkillers.

2. Bursitis

Small and jelly-like, bursae are fluid-filled sacs around the shoulder, elbow, hip, knee, and heel. They act as cushions between bones and soft tissues, reducing friction.

Repeated small stresses and overuse can inflame the bursa, leading to bursitis. This type of soft tissue injury typically affects the hips, elbows, and shoulders. Symptoms include:

  • Pain in the affected joints
  • Stiffness in the affected joints
  • Pressure on the joints
  • Swelling and redness

Most cases of bursitis can be treated with rest and anti-inflammatory medication like ibuprofen. If the pain and swelling persist, your doctor might recommend removing the fluid from the bursa and injecting a corticosteroid. In rare cases where the bursa becomes infected, you’ll need surgery to have them removed.

3. Tendinitis

Tendinitis is another soft tissue injury type caused by overexertion. It’s when the tendon or its sheath is inflamed or irritated by a series of small stresses. Professional baseball players, swimmers, golfers, and tennis players are most susceptible to tendinitis in their shoulders and elbows.

On the other hand, soccer/basketball players, dancers, and runners often suffer tendon inflammation in their knees and ankles.

  • A few symptoms of tendinitis are:
    • Dull ache when moving the affected area
    • Tenderness or mild swelling

If you are diagnosed with tendinitis, the first step is to rest and avoid stress. You can also use anti-inflammatory medicines, splinting, exercises, and steroid injections to fix any muscle imbalances.

4. Anterior Cruciate Ligament Knee Injuries (ACL)

The Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL) is responsible for the knee’s rotational stability. However, this soft tissue is easy to injure. You’ve probably heard of people tearing their ACLs while playing sports or during some other physical activity.

  • This soft tissue injury is characterized by:
    • Severe pain
    • Swelling
    • Loss of range of motion in the area
    • Instability

ACL tears might require surgery to fix, although this is not always the case. You’ll also need several weeks of rehabilitative therapy to get back on your feet.

5. Concussions

Concussions are soft tissue injuries in the brain inflicted by bumps, blows, or jolts to the head. Based on their severity, these types of soft tissue injuries can permanently disrupt brain function, affecting concentration, memory, balance, and coordination.

  • Symptoms of concussions include:
    • Excessive fatigue or drowsiness
    • Nausea
    • Poor and blurry vision

As with most soft tissue injury types, mild concussions can be healed at home with conservative medical approaches like over-the-counter pain relievers, getting enough rest, and taking a break from strenuous activities. In case of serious or prolonged symptoms, your doctor may recommend further examination and imaging.

6. Contusions

Contusions, or bruises, occur when a blow strikes the body, crushing the underlying muscle fibers and connective tissue without breaking the skin. A contusion can also result from falling or jamming the body against a hard surface. This causes the blood to pool around the injury, causing discoloration.

Simple physical therapy techniques and ice packs can help heal bruises effectively. If the discoloration or pain persists, consult a doctor for your soft tissue injuries to prevent permanent damage.

Treat Your Soft Tissue Injuries with Our Revolutionary FIR Infrared Technology

In most cases, soft tissue injury types are nothing to worry about. Most of them heal within six weeks, as long as you rest, ice, compress, and elevate the area. However, be sure to contact a doctor if your symptoms refuse to settle.

At Gladiator Therapeutics, we believe in a better, healthier tomorrow. Our Far Infrared Therapy products are designed to help soft tissue injuries heal faster. Our devices are simple, portable, easy to use, and can get you up and running in no time. Call us for more information.