6 Types of Soft Tissue Injury - IMPACT Physical Therapy

6 Types of Soft Tissue Injury

Physical therapist diagnosing patient with shoulder injury

What is a Soft Tissue Injury?

When you injure a soft tissue such as a muscle, tendon, or ligament, it’s known as a soft tissue injury. You’ll most likely know it when you have a soft tissue injury, since the symptoms of pain and stiffness can seriously disrupt your ability to participate in sports, and even in everyday activities.

These types of injuries can occur during sports, exercise, training, and even low-impact activities like walking or gardening. Common soft tissue injury treatment options include stretching, physical therapy exercises, manual therapy, and surgery. However, the best approach is to listen to what your body is telling you and prevent a soft tissue injury in the first place! For instance, it’s tempting to keep working out with a sore tendon, but this is actually a sign that your tendon is inflamed and at risk for a strain or tear.

Below, we will dive into the causes and specifics of six types of soft tissue injuries, so read on to learn more!

1. Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL) Injuries

Commonly referred to as the ACL, the Anterior Cruciate Ligament enables the rotational stability of the knee joint by resisting the motion of the anterior tibial translation and internal tibial rotation. This ligament is commonly injured through jumping, landing, pivoting, or changing direction while engaging in sports or similar activities. 

Anterior cruciate rupture illustration

Symptoms of an ACL injury can include severe pain, swelling, loss of range of motion in the area, and a feeling of instability. While surgical treatment is often necessary for repairing the ACL and other soft tissue injuries of the knee, our team of clinical therapists provides soft tissue injury treatment near you in and around Chicago, working closely with your doctor to assess your injury and devise a post-surgical treatment program.

To provide optimal healing of a soft tissue tear in the knee or a related injury, the focus should be placed on strength, stability, range of motion, agility, proprioception (your perception of the position and movement of your body), and pain reduction. 

2. Bursitis

Bursitis is a type of soft tissue injury that often impacts the bursae — small, fluid-filled sacs that cushion the bones, tendons, and muscles surrounding your joints. This painful condition occurs when the bursae of the hips, elbows, and shoulders become inflamed. Inflammation can arise due to repetitive motions and overuse. Common symptoms include an achy or stiff feeling and swelling in the affected area.

Olecranon bursitis illustration of inflamed student's elbow

Physical therapy treatment for bursitis includes techniques to reduce pain and swelling, and therapeutic exercises to help stretch and strengthen the muscles in order to prevent future injuries from occurring.

3. Sprains

A sprain is the stretching or tearing of fibrous ligament tissues, and it’s among the most common soft tissue injuries among both athletes and non-athletes. While most sprains affect the ankle, sprains can involve several different areas of the body where the ligament tissue intersects between two bones. 

At IMPACT Physical Therapy and Sports Recovery, we offer a variety of treatment options to assist in healing sprains of the ankle, wrists and fingers. One technique utilized at our clinics that assists in the regeneration of healthy tissue and the reduction of scar tissue is Astym.

Grades of sprain as ankle or foot medical injury levels outline diagram

Rest, Ice, Compression and Elevation (RICE) is not always the best treatment options, so let our clinical therapists assess the extent of your sprain and provide you with the best guidance and support needed to heal your soft tissue injury. 

4. Tendonitis

Tendonitis, which is similar to bursitis, involves the inflammation or irritation of a tendon, or the fibrous cords that attach a muscle to a bone. This inflammatory condition commonly affects areas such as the shoulders, wrists, knees, and elbows. Common symptoms of tendonitis include a dull ache in the area, tenderness, or mild swelling.

illustration of achilles tendon

It is possible for tendonitis to occur suddenly, but most cases of this uncomfortable condition occur in people who regularly perform the same repetitive action. Tendonitis treatment is aimed at reducing pain and inflammation, and physical therapy techniques designed to stretch and strengthen the muscle have proven to be an effective soft tissue injury treatment.

5. Contusions

The term “contusion” refers to the common bruise, but more serious contusions are actually soft tissue injuries. These can involve more than just the surface of the skin and may require treatment from a physical therapist. Symptoms may include a small lump at the injury site, pain, and discoloration of the skin.

Contusions are a type of hematoma, which may indicate a more serious injury to a ligament, tendon, or bone. If the contusion is mild, a combination of rest, ice, compression, and elevation will promote healing.

Illustration with varying hematoma

6. Concussions

What is a soft tissue injury of the brain? Concussions impact brain tissue and can result in damage to brain function, and are considered soft tissue injuries. Though there are many causes of concussions, this injury most commonly affects athletes or individuals involved in contact sports, such as football and boxing. 

Concussion and head trauma or injury types from medical view outline diagram

Concussions require evaluation by a healthcare professional so the proper precautions and treatment steps can be taken. Those suffering from a concussion would most benefit from our comprehensive Concussion Rehab program, wherein our trained therapists assess the cardiovascular, neurological, and orthopedic effects of your concussion.

Schedule Soft Tissue Injury Treatment Near You Today

Don’t let a soft tissue injury slow you down! At IMPACT Physical Therapy and Sports Recovery, we will work with you to address and treat your soft tissue injury so you can get back to feeling your best. Our dedicated clinicians can reduce your pain and put you on the road to recovery from a variety of soft tissue injuries. Contact us at one of our Chicagoland facilities or request an appointment to learn more about soft tissue injury treatment options today.