Many activities can lead to soft-tissue damage of muscles, ligaments, and tendons. The result can be pain, swelling, bruising, and damage. Soft-tissue injuries are classified as the following:
- Contusions (bruises)
- Stress injuries
Athletes and nonathletes share many similar soft-tissue injuries.
What are the most common soft tissue injuries?
- Ankle Spain (see exercise routine below)
- Back Strain (see article on back pain)
- Calf Strain
- Golfers/Tennis elbow
- Hamstring strain
What is the difference between a strain and a sprain?
Tendons are fibrous bands that attach muscles to bone. Trauma to muscles or tendons due to overstretching is referred to as a ‘strain’. Ligaments are also fibrous bands that hold bones together. Trauma by over-stretching of ligaments is referred to as a ‘sprain’. Strains and sprains are both very common and can occur from accidents during sport, at home or at work.
There are three levels or grades of severity:
Grade 1 strain or sprain (mild)
- Minimal over-stretching. Possible minor microscopic tearing of fibres
- Mild tenderness and minimal swelling
Grade 2 strain or sprain (moderate)
- Partial tear of fibres
- Moderate pain, tenderness and swelling
- Unable to apply loading to injured area without pain
Grade 3 strain or sprain (severe)
- Complete rupture of structure
- Significant pain and swelling
- Inability to use the injured structure
- Instability of the affected joint
Treatment for soft tissue injuries:
There are principally three stages of treatment and recovery from soft tissue injuries like ankle sprains
Stage one: During the first 24-72 hours, it is important to protect the injured area, gain an accurate diagnosis and follow the PRICE regime (see below). If possible, gentle pain free movement should be encouraged.
Stage two: Reduce swelling and stiffness and begin to regain normal movement.
Stage three: Regaining of normal function and return to normal activities.
What to avoid when you have a soft tissue injury?
In the first 48-72 hours, it is important to avoid the following:
Increases blood flow and swelling.
Increases blood flow and swelling, and will slow up the healing process.
Promotes blood flow and can increase swelling and can, therefore, increase damage if begun too early.