The most common soft tissues injured are muscles, tendons, and ligaments. These injuries often occur during sports and exercise activities, but sometimes simple everyday activities can cause an injury.
Sprains, strains, and contusions, as well as tendinitis and bursitis, are common soft-tissue injuries. Even with appropriate treatment, these injuries may require a prolonged amount of time to heal.
Soft-tissue injuries fall into two basic categories: acute injuries and overuse injuries.
Acute soft-tissue injuries vary in type and severity. When an acute injury occurs, initial treatment with the RICE protocol is usually very effective. RICE stands for Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation.
A sprain is a stretch and/or tear of a ligament, a strong band of connective tissue that connects the end of one bone with another. Ligaments stabilize and support the body’s joints. For example, ligaments in the knee connect your thighbone (femur) with your shinbone (tibia), enabling you to walk.
The areas of the body that are most vulnerable to sprains are the ankles, knees, and wrists. A sprained ankle can occur when your foot turns inward, placing extreme tension on the ligaments of your outer ankle. A sprained knee can result from a sudden twist, and a wrist sprain can occur if you fall onto an outstretched hand.
A strain is an injury to a muscle and/or tendon. Tendons are fibrous cords of tissue that attach muscles to bone. Strains often occur in the back or leg (typically, the hamstring).
Similar to a sprain, a strain may be a simple stretch of your muscle or tendon, or it may involve a partial or complete tear of the muscle and tendon. Symptoms of a strain may include pain, muscle spasm, muscle weakness, swelling, inflammation, and cramping.
Contusions occur when a direct blow (or repeated blows) by a blunt object strikes part of the body, crushing underlying muscle fibers and connective tissue without breaking the skin. A contusion can result from falling or jamming the body against a hard surface. Discoloration of the skin is caused by blood pooling around the injury.
Most contusions are mild and respond well to the RICE protocol. If symptoms persist, medical care should be sought to prevent permanent damage to the soft tissues.
Injuries often occur when people suddenly increase the duration, intensity, or frequency of their activities. Many soft-tissue injuries can be prevented through proper conditioning and training.