Soft Tissue Injury

Your body is made of many kinds of tissues — muscles, nerves, bones, tendons, and more. A soft tissue injury is an injury to muscle, tendon, ligament, skin, or other “soft” body tissue. These injuries can range from mild sprains to complete tears, but the good news is that they can often be completely rehabilitated.

Here’s what you need to know about types of soft tissue injuries and their causes.

Common Types of Soft Tissue Injuries

Just about everyone has experienced at least one soft tissue injury at some point. These are a few of the most common soft tissue injuries:

Contusions and Hematomas

If you’ve ever gotten a bruise, you’ve experienced a mild contusion. A contusion happens when smaller blood vessels break under the skin, causing a blue-black blotch that eventually turns yellowish, greenish, or brownish and then disappears.

A hematoma is similar. However, while contusions usually happen when smaller blood vessels break, hematomas happen when a larger vessel breaks and blood pools. A hematoma will look and feel different from a bruise, too.

Bruises can be painful, but they are usually flat and will resolve on their own. Hematomas are often raised, hard, and painful, and in some cases, they may need to be drained by a medical professional.

Sprains, Strains, and Tears

Sprains and strains are easy to mix up. A sprain is an injury to a ligament (the tough tissue connecting bones to each other). A strain is an injury to a muscle or a tendon (the tough tissue connecting muscle to bone). Usually, sprains and strains are small, partial tears to these soft tissues.

When diagnosing a sprain, your medical professional will be able to determine the grade of injury you have:

  • Grade 1: A ligament has been stretched, and a few of its fibers have torn
  • Grade 2: More significant tearing and the joint has become loose (or “lax”)
  • Grade 3: The ligament is completely torn, and you can’t use the joint properly

The process of evaluating the severity of a strain is similar, although it may depend on whether the tear is in a tendon or a muscle. Most of the time, milder sprains and strains can heal with rest, ice, compression, and elevation (R.I.C.E.).

If your injury is moderate, your doctor might recommend wearing a brace to stabilize it as it heals. In severe cases, you might need surgery to heal a strain or sprain.


Tendonitis is another type of injury to a tendon. But unlike a strain (which is caused by a sudden motion), tendonitis is caused by overuse. Over time, your tendons accumulate tiny tears. Your body can usually repair these tears without incident.

However, when you’re constantly subjecting your tendons to the same motions that cause the tears, your body can’t keep up. You might start to experience pain, swelling, and a decreased range of motion.

The repetitive motions that cause tendonitis are often related to sports, your occupation, or both.

You can get tendonitis in any tendon, but these are some of the most common types:

  • Shoulder Tendonitis: Often caused by jobs requiring overhead lifting
  • Wrist Tendonitis: Often caused by jobs requiring frequent use of your hands
  • Elbow Tendonitis: Often caused by jobs like plumbing and carpentry or sports like tennis
  • Patellar/Knee Tendonitis: Often caused by jobs or sports requiring running and jumping

Many people with tendonitis benefit from both rest and physical therapy. If you develop tendonitis as a result of your job, a physical therapist may be able to help you modify your body movements to reduce your risk of further injury.


Your joints are cushioned by little, fluid-filled sacs known as “bursae.” When your bursae are healthy, you generally won’t notice them. However, if you develop a condition called bursitis, those bursae quickly become very painful.

Like tendonitis, bursitis is usually caused by the overuse of a joint. For instance, if you lay carpet for a living, the frequent bending of your knees may cause bursitis. If your job requires you to lift things over your head, you might be more likely to develop bursitis in your shoulders.

Less frequently, bursitis can be caused by a sudden injury or trauma to a joint. Mild cases of bursitis might cause stiffness, achiness, and some pain when moving or pressing on the affected joint. Very severe bursitis can cause intense pain and even result in an inability to move the affected joint.

Lacerations and Puncture Wounds

A laceration is a serious cut caused by a tearing motion — like if you accidentally slice your leg with a knife. A puncture wound is a cut caused when a sharp object penetrates the body’s soft tissue — like if someone stabs you during an assault.

Depending on how deep they go, these wounds can cause serious, life-threatening injuries. But even if you have a laceration or puncture wound that doesn’t seem especially serious, it’s still important to care for it properly as it heals. If you suffer a secondary infection, it can lead to greater complications.

What Causes Soft Tissue Injuries?

Soft tissue injuries can have many causes. In some cases, a sudden trauma — such as a car crash — can subject your body to enough force to cause an injury. In other cases, repetitive motions can result in an injury from overuse. These are some of the possible causes:

  • Sudden and forceful movements (like slipping and falling)
  • Blunt-force trauma (from blows, car accidents, etc.)
  • Overtraining in athletics (like developing bursitis as a long-distance runner)
  • Job-related stresses (like developing tendonitis from continual typing)

It’s important to note that it’s entirely possible to have a soft tissue injury along with broken bones, organ damage, and other injuries. If you’ve been involved in an accident or otherwise hurt, you should always seek prompt medical attention so the issue can be correctly diagnosed and treated.

Have You Suffered a Soft Tissue Injury?

The phrase “soft tissue injury” might make it sound like these injuries are minor. Unfortunately, soft tissue injuries can have serious and life-altering consequences. If you’ve suffered a soft tissue injury because another person was careless or negligent, you shouldn’t be forced to absorb the physical, emotional, and financial consequences alone.

Our injury attorneys at Labrum Law Firm Personal Injury Lawyers are dedicated to protecting our injured clients and fighting to achieve justice for them. If you’ve been injured by someone else, we want to hear from you. Contact us to schedule a free consultation today, or call us at (615) 685-8546.