Soft tissue includes many tissues and structures in your body. When your body experiences physical trauma, these tissues can get torn and stretched.
Although some insurers view soft tissue injuries with skepticism, they can have real implications for your finances and quality of life. You might need expensive, ongoing medical treatment and physical therapy for soft tissue injuries. You might also experience chronic pain and substantial physical limitations.
Read on to learn about the causes and symptoms of a soft tissue injury.
What is the Soft Tissue of the Musculoskeletal System?
Your musculoskeletal system includes two types of tissue. Your bones have calcified tissue, which means they get their strength and rigidity from the calcium inside them.
Your soft tissue makes up all of the other structural tissue in your musculoskeletal system. Some types of soft tissue include:
Cartilage is a tough, smooth tissue that lines your joints. In the joints, cartilage cushions the bones and prevents them from grinding against each other when they move. It also forms structures like your nose and ears.
Muscle fibers contract and relax to give your body strength and movement.
Tendons have a tough, fibrous structure. They anchor muscles to bones.
Ligaments have a tough but elastic structure. They hold bones to one another at the joints.
The fascia is a tough, smooth membrane that surrounds a muscle. It holds the muscle fibers together and allows the muscles to move smoothly without wearing on one another.
The bursae are lubricating sacs that sit inside joints. They work with cartilage to provide smooth joint movement.
What Are Some Causes of Soft Tissue Injuries?
Soft tissue can get injured by trauma or overuse. Some types of trauma that can damage soft tissue include:
Hyperextension happens when soft tissue gets stretched beyond its capacity. Notably, a hyperextension injury often happens without any impact on the soft tissue. Instead, the twisting, bending, and stretching from an accident damage the tissue.
Hyperextension causes many of the soft tissue injuries associated with car accidents. When a vehicle collides with you, your body wants to keep moving in the same direction as before the accident. The collision causes your body to twist or bend unexpectedly. This twisting and bending can hyperextend your soft tissue.
Blunt force trauma happens when you get hit with something without sustaining an open wound. The impact with the ground after a slip and fall accident can cause a blunt force injury.
Penetrating trauma happens when you suffer an open wound to your soft tissue. Any time you get into an accident, you risk a foreign object piercing your body. For example, in a bicycle accident, your pedal could tear open your ankle when you get run over.
What Are Some Examples of Soft Tissue Injuries?
Soft tissue can get injured in numerous ways. Some examples of soft tissue injuries include:
Bruises happen when an injury causes blood vessels to rupture inside your soft tissue.
Bruises can involve only discoloration, but in many cases, you may also experience:
- Changing color
Bruises usually clear up in a few weeks with home treatment and without complications. If you have a bleeding disorder, your doctor might prescribe medication to stop the bleeding.
Lacerations happen when soft tissue gets cut. Lacerations can sever tendons and ligaments. They can also slice into cartilage and muscles.
Minor lacerations may not require any treatment or only a few stitches. Deep lacerations might require surgery to repair and close.
Disfigurement and scarring can result from lacerations. Scars happen when the body repairs damaged tissue, but the new cells grow thicker and less elastic than the original cells. Doctors can reduce the chances of scarring or perform cosmetic surgery to treat scars that have already formed.
Strains and Sprains
Strains and sprains usually result from a hyperextension injury.
Strains happen when your accident causes stretches or tears to muscles or tendons. When this happens, your muscles and tendons cannot contract or relax to move your body.
Some symptoms of a strain include:
- Muscle spasms
Sprains happen when trauma causes ligaments to stretch or tear. A sprain causes the joint to become unstable.
Some symptoms of a sprain include:
- Loose or unstable joint
- Popping sound or feeling when the injury happened
Minor strains and sprains heal in four to six weeks with rest. Your doctor might also prescribe anti-inflammatory drugs to reduce the swelling and promote blood flow to the injury. If a tendon or ligament completely detaches from the bone, a doctor might recommend surgery to reattach it.
As your injury heals, your doctor might also recommend physical therapy. Therapy can strengthen injured tissue and the surrounding muscles to reduce the risk of re-injury.
Cartilage can tear when a joint experiences trauma.
Some symptoms of torn cartilage include:
- Clicking when moving the joint
- Stiffness or limited range of motion
- Hitching or catching when bending or extending the joint
A cartilage tear can heal, but it takes time. While the cartilage heals, you might develop arthritis in the joint because the bones grind without the cartilage between them. Doctors usually do not recommend surgery to repair torn cartilage except to remove loose pieces of cartilage floating in the joint.
What Compensation Can You Get for a Soft Tissue Injury?
You can recover compensation for soft tissue injuries that result from someone else’s negligence. Negligence means that another person failed to exercise reasonable care, and you suffered an injury as a result of their lapse.
If you can prove negligence, you can seek economic and non-economic damages. Economic damages cover the financial aspects of your injury, such as your medical expenses and lost income. Non-economic damages include pain, suffering, and the inability to perform tasks because of your injury.
Even though some insurers look skeptically at soft tissue injuries, they can produce some of the worst and longest-lasting symptoms of any injuries. Torn cartilage in a joint, for example, could cause chronic or recurring pain for the rest of your life.