Helpful Tips for Recovering From Soft Tissue Injuries



Soft tissue injuries such as sprains, strains, and contusions are common yet often misunderstood, leading to longer than necessary recovery and, in some cases, chronic issues. But with the right knowledge of how to approach recovery, you can speed things up and feel better faster.

What Are Soft Tissue Injuries?

Soft tissue describes any tissue in the body that isn’t a bone. This includes muscles, tendons, ligaments, and even fat (though, for the purposes of discussing injuries, we’ll focus on the former three).

Because there’s such a variety of soft tissue in the human body, there can be any range of injuries and conditions that cause damage to muscles, tendons, and ligaments. This includes sprains, strains, contusions, tendinitis, and bursitis.

Typically, soft tissue injuries are accompanied by some combination of symptoms such as pain, swelling, bruising, weakness, and a limited range of motion. According to MedicalNewsToday, the most common causes of soft tissue injuries are sports and exercise. However, they can also be brought on by sudden trauma (like a slip and fall), overuse (repetitive movements over time), and overloading (a sudden increase in exercise intensity).

“This type of injury, while not as severe as most, can still be painful and long-lasting,” Rosenthal Levy, Simon & Sosa explains. “Sprains, strains, bruising, and other damage to muscles, tendons, and ligaments (soft tissue injuries) are very common in car accidents.”

Whether it’s a car accident or simply overuse during exercise, soft tissue injuries can linger if you don’t proactively address the underlying issues. The sooner you act, the faster you can begin the healing process.

Soft Tissue Injury Recovery Tips

Because there’s such a variety of different types of soft tissue injuries, there isn’t just one prescription for recovery. There are, however, several different approaches that are widely accepted within the medical community. Let’s explore a few different things you can do to mitigate pain and hopefully begin moving toward recovery.

The RICE Method

When you first sustain a soft tissue injury, it’s crucial to take immediate action. The RICE method is a well-known approach that stands for Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation.

Rest: The first thing you should do is stop any activity that could worsen the injury. Giving your body time to rest is important for the healing process. Avoid putting weight on the injured area and try to find a comfortable position.

Ice: You can usually reduce swelling and numb the pain by applying ice to the area. Ideally, you should use an ice pack – though a bag of frozen vegetables wrapped in a towel can do the trick. Apply the ice for 15-20 minutes every hour for the first 48 hours after the injury. (Avoid keeping the ice on for any longer than 20 minutes.)

Compression: Wrapping the injured area with an elastic bandage can help minimize swelling. Make sure the bandage is snug but not too tight. If you feel numbness or tingling, loosen the wrap.

Elevation: Elevating the injured area above the level of your heart can also help reduce swelling. Use pillows or cushions to prop up the injury while you rest. This will alleviate some of the pressure and at least temporarily reduce symptoms.

Pain Management

Pain almost always accompanies soft tissue injuries, and managing it effectively is key to a smooth recovery. Over-the-counter pain relievers such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen can help reduce pain and inflammation. But be sure to follow the dosage instructions on the label and consult with a healthcare professional. This should be seen more as a short-term option for reducing the severity of symptoms – not a long-term solution for dealing with an injury.

Rehabilitation Exercises

Once the initial pain and swelling have subsided, it’s important to start rehabilitation exercises to restore strength and flexibility to the injured area. These exercises should be gentle and gradual to avoid re-injury.

Typically, a physical therapist or doctor will recommend beginning with range of motion exercises. These exercises help maintain flexibility in the injured area. For example, if you’ve sprained your ankle, try gentle ankle circles or alphabet exercises with your foot.

As you progress, you can add strengthening exercises to your routine. Using resistance bands or light weights can help build muscle around the injured area, providing better support and reducing the risk of future injuries.

Seeking Professional Help

While many soft tissue injuries can be managed at home, there are times when you should seek professional help. If you experience severe pain, significant swelling, or if the injury doesn’t improve after a few days of self-care, make sure you see a doctor. They can assess the injury, provide a proper diagnosis, and recommend additional treatments such as physical therapy or, in some cases, surgery.


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