The body’s “soft tissue” includes ligaments, tendons, and muscles. Typically, this soft tissue can suffer damage because of traumatic force or through repetition. Of all the injuries you can suffer after an accident, soft-tissue injuries might seem the least serious. After all, your life is not threatened when you strain a muscle or sprain a joint. Furthermore, most soft-tissue injuries should heal with sufficient rest.
Nevertheless, some soft tissue injuries can leave you in chronic pain, making it difficult to return to work and to your old lifestyle. Also, soft tissue injuries can cause complications which themselves are also serious. Read on to better understand what you need to do to recover from a soft-tissue injury.
Ligaments connect one bone to another in the body. You can suffer a sprain when the ligament is stretched or torn. Many sprains occur in the wrists, ankles, and knees. Sprains can be mild, moderate, or severe:
- Mild sprains stretch the ligament and may cause some damage to the ligament fibers.
- Moderate sprains result in partial tears in the ligament.
- Severe sprains are caused by a full tear of the ligament. The bones become incredibly unstable as a result, and joints cannot function.
To treat a sprain, you should follow the RICE protocol, which includes:
- Rest so that you do not make the injury worse. You might need to use crutches to keep the weight off the injured body part, such as your foot or leg.
- Ice the injury by using cold packs. Use them several times a day for 20 minutes each, being sure not to place the ice pack directly on your skin.
- Apply a compression bandage to reduce swelling.
- Elevate the injured body part to reduce the swelling. You should elevate the injured part above your heart.
Depending on the severity, you might need to take other action. For example, if your sprain is moderate, you might need to wear a brace and participate in physical therapy to regain functioning. If your sprain is severe, you might need surgery to reconnect the ligament to the bone. Surgery carries its own complications, including the risk of infection or injury due to improper anesthesia.
Strains usually involve an injury to your muscle or tendon (or both). Tendons attach muscles to bone. These tendons can become stretched or they might partially or completely tear. You will know you have a strain if you feel muscle spasms, pain, weakness, swelling, cramping, and inflammation.
Strains are common in contact sports like soccer, ice hockey, wrestling, football, and boxing. Other athletes might suffer a strain because the sport requires sudden movement, such as gymnastics, hurdling, or tennis.
To treat a strain, follow the same procedure as you would for a sprain (listed above). If the tearing is complete, then you might need to have surgery to reattach the tendon to your muscle or bone. Strains carry the same complications as sprains.
A contusion is a bruise. Often, bruising is merely a cosmetic problem that should slowly fade over time. Contusions are caused by direct trauma to the body that crushes fibers and connective tissue underneath the skin without breaking through the dermis or epidermis.
Contusions respond well to the RICE protocol described above. However, in a few situations, you might develop complications:
- Hematomas occur when blood builds up, causing pressure and pain. A doctor might need to drain the hematoma to relieve pressure.
- Compartmental syndrome occurs when muscle pressure increases and prevents blood flow. The loss of blood ultimately damages the muscle permanently.
- Myositis ossificans occurs when bone tissue grows where it shouldn’t. In bad cases, you might need surgery to remove the bone.
Whiplash is a term used to describe a variety of symptoms many motorists suffer after a collision. Violent motion forces the head beyond its normal range of motion, causing damage to muscles and ligaments in the neck. Because of these injuries, victims might experience the following symptoms:
- Pain and stiffness in the neck
- Pain in the shoulders or upper back
- Vision problems
- Sleep disturbances
- Impairment of concentration
- Memory problems
Whiplash symptoms sometimes are slow to develop. For example, you might not feel pain until 24 hours have passed from the accident. To protect yourself, you should immediately seek medical treatment as soon as you notice the first symptoms after a collision.
Whiplash can range anywhere from mild to severe. To treat mild whiplash, patients usually apply heat or ice to the affected area and take over-the-counter medicines to manage pain. You might also benefit from massage or physical therapy to increase a range of motion in your neck.
Although mild whiplash can clear on its own in a couple of weeks, severe whiplash can leave victims in pain for years. Severe whiplash can seriously interfere with work, schooling, and family life.
Anything that constantly pushes against a nerve ending can cause constant pain. You might suffer a compressed nerve (also called a “pinched nerve”) after a strain or sprain if the ligament or tendon presses against a nerve in your body.
Compressed nerves require immediate treatment. Generally, a doctor might prescribe anti-inflammatory drugs, such as ibuprofen. You might also need surgery to reduce the compression. If left untreated, compression can cause damage to the nerve or to its protective covering. This damage can become permanent. If treated quickly, the nerve can often recover.
Speak with a Clearwater Personal Injury Lawyer
As you can see, many soft-tissue injuries can leave victims in debilitating pain for months or longer and might result in permanent damage to the body. Even worse, some soft-tissue injuries like whiplash might not be immediately apparent. Remember to treat all pain seriously after an accident and seek out prompt medical treatment.
At Dolman Law Group, our personal injury attorneys can discuss your options for compensation if you have suffered a soft-tissue injury. To schedule a free, no-obligation consultation with one of our lawyers, please call 727-451-6900 or submit our contact sheet.