‘Soft tissue injury’ is a fairly nondescript term for describing an injury that typically involves trauma without bony fracture. It’s the type of diagnosis that you’re likely to be given by a GP or ED doctor and while this is helpful for determining appropriate management in a hospital or emergency setting, it doesn’t really tell us much about the actual nature of the injury, the specific tissues involved or the likely tissue repair rates or capabilities.

Injury can occur to any of the soft tissues of the body and while the most common soft tissues injured are muscles and tendons other tissues such as ligaments, discs and bursa can all be injured too. These sorts of injuries often occur during sport and exercise activities but sometimes simple everyday activities can cause injury.

The specific tissue injured and the mechanism of injury go a long way to determining how much recovery is likely and the expected time-frame for tissue repair. Sprains, strains, contusions, tendinitis and bursitis are all common soft-tissue injuries but even with appropriate treatment, these injuries can require a protracted period of time to heal. Healing times for different tissues vary according to the tissue’s blood and nerve supply and the presence or absence of an ongoing pathology.

Soft-tissue injuries generally fall into two basic categories: acute injuries and overuse or overload injuries; but there are also some instances where other generalised illnesses can affect the soft tissues and mimic these injuries.

Acute injuries are caused by a sudden trauma, such as a fall or blow to the body. Acute injuries usually include sprains, strains, and contusions.

Overuse injuries occur gradually over time, usually when an activity repeatedly pushes us beyond what our body is conditioned for meaning that tissues do not have enough time to heal between stresses. Tendinitis and bursitis are common soft-tissue overload injuries.

Generalised illnesses that commonly affect the soft tissues of the body include Rheumatoid Arthritis, diabetes and thyroid disease.

Diagnosis by a musculoskeletal therapist such as an osteopath is typically the first step towards understanding the specific nature and cause of a soft tissue injury. This not only includes the specific tissue and how it came to be injured but should importantly include any factors making it prone to injury in the first place.

Treatment will vary depending upon the needs and demands of the specific injury and the health, lifestyle and activities of the specific person. Our osteopaths will conduct an assessment of your medical history, level of activity, mechanism of injury and your goals for post recovery to develop a recovery plan.

Treatment Modalities may include:

  • Self-management strategies such as rest, ice, heat and activity modification
  • Joint mobilisation or manipulation
  • Electrotherapy or TENS Machine
  • Massage & Trigger Point Therapy
  • Supportive taping & strapping
  • Exercise prescription such as;
    • Specific stretching exercises
    • Specific strengthening exercises for local & global support systems (eg Core strengthening or regional muscle groups)
    • Proprioceptive and sensory retraining
    • Biomechanical correction
    • Functional or sports-specific rehabilitation

Soft tissue injuries can be long and painful and they frequently require appropriate management to get the best outcomes. It is important to rest the area and give it time to heal but it’s also equally important to load the area to drive tissue repair and recovery… finding the balance between the two can be tricky but a good osteopath can be an invaluable guide.

If you’re struggling with bursitis, tendinitis or recurrent muscle strains give our osteopaths a call today.