Soft tissue injuries can be broken down into two broad categories depending on the cause – acute injuries and long term or overuse injuries.
Acute injuries are caused by a sudden trauma to the region. They are common in contact sports or accidents. Acute injuries can be classified as:
- Strains – A strain is an injury to a muscle or the tendon that attaches the muscle to a bone. This type of injury is common in sports that involve a lot of explosive movements such as sudden starts and stops as well as contact sports. Repeated strains generally lead to significant muscle weakness in the injured region and can lead to cramping and spasms.
- Sprain – Sprains are similar to strains with one significant difference. These injuries involve an overstretch or tear of a ligament, which is the soft tissue that connects two bones. These structures provide stability to joint structures. Any injury can lead to loss of joint stability and pain while performing certain movements that put pressure on the injured ligament. Sprains are commonly caused by sudden movements of a joint under pressure such as twisting your ankle.
- Contusions – Commonly known as bruises, these injuries are often a result of sudden blunt force or repeated blunt force to a soft tissue such as a fall or being punched. These actions cause swelling and bleeding underneath the skin, leading to that distinctive black and blue discolouration around the area of the injury.
Overuse injuries occur due to a movement or action that’s performed repetitively over extended periods of time without giving the body enough time to repair itself. If you continue to stress a soft tissue without giving it recovery time after the action, it could lead to tendinitis or bursitis.
- Tendinitis – Tendinitis is an inflammation of the tendons. It is caused by multiple accumulated stresses that keep building up and eventually damage the tendon over a period of time. Symptoms include pain and swelling, which can prevent you from performing most activities that involve using the injured tendon. Basketball and racket sport players often suffer from tendinitis in the arms and shoulders, while football players and marathon runners often suffer from tendinitis of the legs.
- Bursitis – Bursae are small sacs of fluid located in between bones and soft tissue throughout the body. They help to reduce the friction between the bones and soft tissue. When a bursa becomes inflamed, it causes discomfort and pain, which may also lead to further soft tissue injury if not addressed. This can be caused by prolong, excessive pressure on a joint.