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What Is a Soft Tissue Injury and How Do You Treat It?


Cold Therapy for ankle sprain

One wrong move and you’ve got a soft tissue injury. Whether it’s a sport, exercise routine or simple everyday activity, the causes of soft tissue injuries are difficult to avoid. And even with the right kind of treatment, a soft tissue injury can take a substantial amount of time to heal. 

But how do you know when you have a soft tissue injury? And what can you do toaccelerate the healing process? Getting back to your daily routine doesn’t need to be difficult, especially when you’ve learned about your injury type and the techniques that will help you and your body get back on track. 

Quick Takeaways

  • Soft tissue injuries can occur inmuscles, ligaments or tendons, and result in pain, swelling, mild heat and redness
  • The most common types of soft tissue injuries include sprains, strains, contusions, tendonitis and bursitis
  • You can heal your soft tissue injury naturally with methods such as RICE, cold therapy and support aids

Anyone can experience a soft tissue injury, and every kind of injury requires the right kind of support. Learning about your injury and natural healing methods is the quickest way to regain your strength.

What Is A Soft Tissue Injury?

A soft tissue injury refers to a damaged muscle, ligament or tendon, also known as soft areas of the body. Once a soft tissue injury occurs, your body starts to repair damaged tissues by initiating a process that causes:

  • Pain
  • Swelling
  • Mild heat
  • Redness 

A soft tissue injury can happen suddenly or gradually due to overuse, by athletes or non-athletes. For example, an injury can occur when you don’t allow your body to fully recover from a workout before continuing an intense routine. As a result, the soft tissues used can experience strain or trauma.

Soft tissue injuries are most likely to occur in the ankles, knees and wrists due to their vulnerability. Among the many types of injuries that can occur, there are few that are most commonly seen. 


A sprain refers to a partial tear to a ligament, typically caused by an intense twist. Ligaments are elastic, fibrous bands of soft tissue that connect and support the bones. When one or more of the ligaments are stretched beyond their normal limits, sprains are likely to occur. 

illustration of ankle sprain

Sprains commonly occur in the ankles, knees and wrists after turning or rolling movements. Surgical repair is often necessary when ligaments are completely torn, but partial tears can typically heal without an invasive procedure. 


When injuries occur to soft tissues due to overuse, force or stretching, it is called a strain. Strains can occur in any part of the body, but are most commonly seen in theshoulders, knees and ankles. If a muscle tear occurs,surgery may be needed in order to recover. 


A contusion, also known as a bruise, is most often caused by a blunt force, like a kick or fall. Due to bleeding into the tissue, contusions cause discoloration in addition to pain and swelling. Soft tissue contusions can take anywhere from 3 days to a couple of weeks to heal. 


Tendonitis occurs when the tendons in a specific area become inflamed. Tendons are the flexible bands of tissue that connect muscles to bones. Tendonitis is caused by overuse and repetitive motions in the affected area. 

illustration of tendonitis

The most common areas to experience tendonitis are the elbows, wrists, knees,hips and ankles. Although steroid injections can be used to treat chronic pain caused by tendonitis, complete tears typically require surgery. 


Bursitis refers to inflammation of the bursa, a sac filled with fluid that acts as a cushion between bones and soft tissues. Similar to tendonitis, bursitis is most commonly caused by overuse, but can also occur when a joint experiences trauma. This soft tissue injury most often occurs in the shoulders, elbows,knees and ankles. 

How To Treat A Soft Tissue Injury

Regardless of what kind of soft tissue injury you experience, there are several natural healing methods that can help you recover quickly.

RICE Method

Most soft tissue injuries call for the RICE protocol to fully recover and manage symptoms of pain and inflammation. RICE stands for:

  • Rest. Rest the area when possible, and do not apply excessive pressure.
  • Ice. Use a cold compress or cold therapy machine to helpreduce swelling to the area. Apply ice for 15-20 at a time, at least 3 times per day, up to once per hour. Be sure to place a protective barrier, such as a cloth or compression sleeve, between your skin and the ice to prevent skin damage. 
  • Compression. Using a bandage wrap or compression sleeve, compress the bruised area to reduce inflammation. Be sure not to wrap your injury too tight to avoid limiting circulation. 
  • Elevation.When possible, raise the injured area above your heart. This helps drain blood from your soft tissue injury, ultimately minimizing pain and encouraging healing. 

If you haven’t noticed any improvement after a few days of performing the RICE method, be sure to contact your healthcare provider. 

Cold Therapy

One of the best ways to managechronic pain, minimize swelling and encourage recovery is performing cold therapy. This healing technique, also known ascryotherapy, has been used since 400 BC to enhance the healing process. 

Not only does cold therapy help the body recovery from injury, but it also helps improve:

  • Sleep quality
  • Metabolism
  • Immune System
  • Focus

The most convenient way to perform cold therapy is by using a cold therapy machine, such as the Breg Polar Care Wave. This specific machine utilizes both cold therapy and compression to provide instant pain-relief and healing to affected areas.

Breg Polar Care Wave cold therapy machine

Quiet, compact and easy to use, theBreg Polar Care Wave is ideal for both at-home use and travel. Well-known as one of the best medical gradecold therapy machines, this unit is guaranteed to accelerate healing and relieve pain when it comes to soft tissue injuries. 

Walking Aids, Braces and Supports

In the early stages of a soft tissue injury, using a support aid, such as a boot,brace or crutches, may be helpful to eliminate pressure from the affected area. Using an aid can increase your comfort level, and help encourage you to get back to your daily activities. 

Unless otherwise advised by your doctor, it’s important to become less reliant on your aid as time goes on. Wearing a brace or using an aid for longer than necessary can significantly reduce the amount of strength in the affected area and create long-term complications. 

Start Your Healing Journey Today

Overcoming a soft tissue injury can be challenging, but understanding your injury and using natural healing methods is the best way to accelerate recovery. 

To learn more about medical techniques and technology that can support you on your healing journey, visitOrthoBracing today!