What is a Soft Tissue Injury?

You may have heard the term “soft tissue injury” but not really understood what this referred to. Soft tissue injuries are the trauma that occurs to any skin, tendon, muscle, or ligament in a person’s body. These injuries are not fractures to a person’s bones or injuries to a person’s internal organs, such as the heart, lungs, liver, etc. There are two main mechanisms of injury (MOI) when it comes to soft tissue trauma: acute trauma or an overuse injury.

Acute traumatic soft tissue injuries

Acute trauma always has a sudden onset and can include various types of injuries. These incidents often occur in workplace accidents, car accidents, bicycle and pedestrian incidents, slip and fall accidents, sports incidents, or other sudden traumatic events.

Lacerations, punctures, avulsions, and abrasions are all forms of open soft tissue injury. This means that the tissue of a person’s body has been separated and leads to a loss of blood. If the bleeding is significant enough, a person can experience hypovolemic shock. Open wounds can also become infected as a person is recovering.

Contusions do not leave open wounds, but can still cause bleeding below the tissue. This can lead to swelling and create pressure on blood vessels and reduce blood flow to surrounding tissue.

Sprains are also considered an acute traumatic injury, though these injuries occur after leverage is applied to certain parts of the body as opposed to a striking traumatic blow to the tissues. For example, if a person’s wrist is suddenly pressed backward after a car accident, the underlying tendons, ligaments, and muscles could be rapidly stretched (sprained).

Overuse soft tissue injuries

The soft tissues of our bodies can also be injured through repetitive use. These are often referred to as repetitive stress injuries (RSIs). Perhaps the most well-known RSI that affects soft tissues is carpal tunnel syndrome, which can affect a person’s wrists. However, overuse injuries can occur all over a person’s body and can lead to immense pain that prevents a person from working or from undertaking their daily activities.

Some of the most coming overuse injuries include:

  • tendonitis (inflammation of a tendon)
  • epicondylitis (irritation of the epicondyle, the area that surrounds rounded parts of the bones in a joint)
  • tennis elbow (a common type of epicondylitis)
  • bursitis (inflammation of the bursa, which is the fluid-filled cushion pads of the joints)
  • muscle strains
  • muscle tears

These injuries most commonly occur in the workplace setting where a person is asked to perform the same motions over and over again for long periods of time. These injuries are also common in athletes who similarly perform repetitive motions.

What if these are delayed injuries?

In many cases, victims of accidents do not experience signs or symptoms of injuries immediately. Sometimes, a victim experiences a delayed soft tissue injury that reveals itself hours or even days after an accident occurs. For example, in the aftermath of a car accident, the adrenaline pumping through a person’s body often keeps them from realizing they have sustained a soft tissue injury. However, after the adrenaline leaves the body, a soft tissue injury may become apparent.

If you or somebody you love has been in an accident, seek medical attention as soon as possible. Let a licensed medical professional make a determination of the extent of your injuries.