Soft tissue generally encompasses each part of your body except your bones or organs. Soft tissue injuries take on a few forms that range in severity from serious to minor.
Types of Soft Tissue Injuries from Car Accidents
- Internal and external bruising.
- Muscle strains.
- Nerve damage.
- Joint and ligament sprains.
- Fascia damage.
- Secondary injuries can occur as a result of soft tissue damage. If tendons, muscles or ligaments are strained, it can lead to dislocations or misalignments of hard tissue.
Causes of Soft Tissue Damage in Auto Accidents
Car accidents are a display of physics, particularly Newton's first law - a body at rest stays at rest, while a body in motion stays in motion. What this means for car accident victims is that your body, though seemingly still while sitting in a car, is moving with the car at the same speed. When a moving car is brought to an abrupt halt, like in an accident, the car's momentum stops completely, while your body's momentum continues.
Airbags and seatbelts work to keep the body grounded to the car as it slows to prevent passengers from colliding with the dash or windshield. However, airbags and seatbelts can only do so much to limit the risk of soft tissue damage during a car accident. Limbs are still exposed to impact injury, airbags themselves can cause bruising, and thin seatbelts can pull against the skin causing deep bruising and muscle strain.
Another less obvious cause of soft tissue damage during a car accident is debris. Accidents happen so fast that it can be difficult to recall how an injury occurred. Examining the vehicle and recollecting the items you had in your car at the time of the accident can identify how a particular bruise, cut or strain occurred.
Symptoms of Severe Soft Tissue Damage
Identifying the symptoms of a severe soft tissue injury is critical to receive the proper treatment and avoid worsening your condition. If you notice one or more of these symptoms, seek medical attention to receive any necessary immediate treatments as well as thorough diagnostics to identify the full form and extent of your injuries:
- Weakness in the affected area.
- Decrease in range of motion.
Soft Tissue Injury Treatment
Soft tissue injuries typically take a while to completely heal as they rely on the body's natural healing process, rather than a medical quick fix. Most treatments that assist in recovery from soft tissue injuries are self-administered. In severe cases, soft tissue injuries require surgical intervention to aid in complete recovery. Soft tissue injury treatments include:
R.I.C.E. - Rest, ice, compression and elevation are utilized to limit complications following an injury and allow the body to heal naturally. Rest not only implies getting an adequate amount of sleep, but also taking it easy while you recover from the injury and avoiding risky or exhaustive activities. Ice, compression and elevation are used to reduce swelling and inflammation that can cause discomfort and infection if left to settle.
Physical therapy - Muscles and tendons that have been strained need to be exercised to regain their full strength and resilience. Working with a physical therapist can give you the structure and guidance to perform the needed stretches and exercises to make a quick and complete recovery from your soft tissue injury.
Therapeutic massage - Massages can help stimulate and repair strained muscles and tendons. Self-massaging can suffice for minor aches and pains; however, a professional masseuse can provide deeper and more targeted massages to promote injury recovery.
Surgery - Many soft tissue tears will heal naturally, while complete tears may require surgery to reconnect separated soft tissue. Surgery can also be used to remove painful, damaged tissue or swelling.