It’s Only A Soft Tissue Injury!

“It’s only a soft tissue injury!” This is a common statement made by many when commenting about a strain or a sprain. In the mind of most people, there is minimal damage requiring minimal care. The reality is, this can be far from the truth! Soft tissue injuries can be painful and result in long term disabilities.

A soft tissue injury is damage to muscles, tendons and ligaments. This happens when over use or trauma puts too much stress on a particular joint which results in tears in the fibers of the soft tissues. Common causes are sports or auto injuries or long term poor sports techniques. These injuries initiate a process of swelling, inflammation and scar tissue development that start as acute pain, but also lead to chronic debilitating pain and stiffness.

On average, the healing of soft tissue is with approximately 70% of normal tissue: the other 30% is scar tissue. This is significant for long term strength, mobility and pain. Scar tissue has less blood supply than normal tissue, is less elastic and has more nerve endings. Thus, if not properly managed, soft tissue injuries can result in a significant stiff and sensitive area that can chronically be aggravated.
A review of contemporary literature clearly indicates that damaged soft tissue healing is approximately a one year process. This healing takes place in place in three specific phases.

The first phase is the acute inflammatory phase, lasting approximately 72 hours. During this phase swelling is first due to micro-tearing of the tissues allowing blood and other cellular fluids to seep between the tissue fibers. Many times the damaged area is also red and warm to the touch.

The second phase is the regeneration phase and begins approximately 72 to 96 hours following the injury and lasts approximately 6 to 8 weeks. During this phase scar tissue or collagen, a protein substance, which acts as glue to bridge the gap in the torn tissues, repairs the damaged muscles and ligaments. This collagen is deposited in the injured tissue in a random or haphazard manor.

The third phase is called remodeling and it is when the collagen/scar tissue reshaped based on the stress demands placed on the tissue. If proper motion is applied, the fibers will change from an irregular to a more regular pattern; more like the original undamaged tissues. Proper treatment is vital during this phase if we are to maintain a flexible and non-sensitive healed tissue. Research shows that remodeling can take up to one year.

The key to successful soft tissue healing and diminished pain and disability is to maintain proper motion and alignment as the tissue heals. Chiropractic healthcare puts motion into the tissues in an effort at getting them to line up along directions of stress and strain, thereby giving a stronger, more elastic end product of healing. If you are have suffered from a soft tissue injury, contact us to schedule an evaluation to see what is necessary to prevent long term problems.