How to Treat an Acute Soft Tissue Injury
Article by John Miller
By definition a soft tissue injury is any injury that is soft. That is, not hard like bone.
Soft tissue injuries include:
- Ligament (connecting bone to bone)
- Tendon (connecting muscle to bone)
- Other Soft Tissue (eg fat, myofascial tissue, joint capsules, skin and other connective tissue)
Obviously the best care is to seek prompt medical attention for an accurate diagnosis and its specific care. However, in the interim you can follow the following general guidelines.
In the first three days after injury, use the R.I.C.E. method:
Rest (to avoid pain and further damage)
Ice (20 to 30 minutes each two to three hours)
Compression (to support the injury and minimise swelling)
Elevation (above your heart to assist swelling reduction)
What Is Your Subsequent Treatment?
Regain Full Movement
A primary aim of treatment once the initial trauma has settled is to regain your full joint, ligament and muscle range of motion. Your physiotherapist will identify any abnormalities and provide hands-on treatment and prescribe the relevant exercises to regain normal movement.
It is extremely important to dynamically support the muscles surrounding your injury via strengthening exercises. This is important to provide support during the early recovery phase, to prevent re-injury and return you to everyday function and sport. Your physiotherapist will prescribe and progress injury-specific exercises individualised to your needs.
Injury causes nerve pathway damage that affects your ability to control your joint position. The technical name for this is proprioception. Proprioception exercises have been shown in numerous research studies to prevent future injuries. Your physiotherapist is an expert in prescribing proprioceptive retraining that is specific to your functional and sport requirements.
Heat or Ice
Heat can be used to ease muscle soreness, increase soft tissue extensibility, increase circulation. Ice has also found to be useful even beyond the 72 hour period to reduce swelling due to excessive use and to slow your nerve conduction rate to assist pain control. If you would like advice regarding what is most suitable to you, please consult your physiotherapist.
Seek professional assistance for your prompt return to sport, work and everyday life. After assessing your injury their expert opinion will guide your treatment for the quickest and most effective treatment outcome.
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