Soft tissue refers to muscles, tendons, ligaments, and other connective tissues. Injuries to these structures can come as the result of normal every day wear and tear associated with aging, from sports activities, low or high energy traumatic events, work place and industrial accidents.
Common types of soft tissue injuries and their cause include:
- A strain occurs when a muscle or tendon is pulled or torn. A strain can result in a partial or complete tear of the muscle or tendon involved. In more severe cases, a tendon can become detached from a bony attachment. Treatment usually involves non-surgical measures such as rest, activity modification, exercise and medication to decrease inflammation.
– Ligaments are strong connective tissue that connect one bone to another. A sprain re-sults when a ligament is stretched or torn. Common sprains occur in the neck and back, knees, and ankles. Similar to a strain, treatment is usually non-surgical.
– Results from repetitive stress on a tendon. Inflammation develops within a tendon or tendon sheath resulting in pain, tenderness, and swelling. This is often seen in athletes who compete in baseball (pitchers), tennis, golf, and basketball. Repetitive stress causes aggravation along the underlying tendon. Treatment usually involves avoiding the offending activity, NSAID medication to decrease inflammation, bracing, and corticosteroid injections for some. Reoccur-rence risk is high for certain types of tendonitis.
– Irritation of a fluid filled sac that lies between muscle and bone. The purpose of a bur-sa it to allow smooth gliding of the tendon over bone. Repetitive stress or overuse can cause in-flammation of a bursa. Most common anatomic locations include the shoulder, elbow, hip, and knee. Treatment involves rest, activity modification, and NSAID use. Corticosteroid injections al-so may be helpful.
– Also known as a bruise to a muscle, tendon, or ligament. This results from a direct, blunt trauma or repetitive pressure. Classically, skin discoloration can be seen with a soft tissue contusion as blood from the associated injury pools in the surrounding area. Most patients re-cover uneventfully from this type of injury. Rest and ice is usually recommended as treatment. One painful complication that can result is calcification of the contusion known as myositis ossificans. In rare cases, a contusion may be associated with an underlying bony fracture or in-ternal injury.
In general, the symptoms related to a simple soft tissue injury begin to settle in under a week. The body begins a reparative process that may take up to six weeks. Beyond the six week mark, healing often continues to make the area stronger to meet the demands of physical activity. Certain injuries which are severe in nature or complex, may require longer to heal and for some chronic symptoms may always be present.