Many insurers don’t take soft tissue injuries seriously enough. They feel that the symptoms are too easy to fake and the effects are too fleeting to constitute a true injury. Regardless, the law entitles you to full and fair compensation after you’re hurt in an accident caused by someone else’s actions.
Soft tissue injuries may require reconstructive surgery, physical therapy, and pain medication. You may even suffer long-term disabilities after they heal. Understanding these injuries and their effects will ensure that you receive all the compensation you deserve under the law.
What Are the Soft Tissues of the Musculoskeletal System?
You have many soft tissues in your body, including your blood vessels, nerves, and organs. But when doctors refer to soft tissue, they usually mean specifically the soft tissues of the musculoskeletal system.
Your musculoskeletal system gives your body structure and makes movement possible. It includes two types of tissues.
Your skeleton consists of rigid bones, which act as a kind of scaffolding for your body to hold it up and provide strength and stability. Various other soft tissues attach to the skeleton, holding together and imbuing it with strength and motion.
Your soft tissues include:
These elastic bands of tissue hold bones together at the joints. They have both the strength to secure the bones and the elasticity to enable easy movement.
Muscles and Tendons
Your tendons anchor your muscles to your bones; in turn, your muscles move your body by using your bones for leverage. As the muscles contract or relax, they move your bones around the pivot points provided by the joints.
Cartilage is a strong, smooth form of protein that lines your joints to prevent the bones from grinding against each other. When your cartilage becomes damaged or worn, you could suffer arthritis as a result.
Cartilage also provides flexibility in body parts without bones. For example, cartilage gives your nose and ears their shape.
How Does a Soft Tissue Injury Happen?
Soft tissue injuries most often result from trauma. Some common forms of trauma that can damage soft tissues include:
Hyperextension happens when your body extends, twists, or bends unnaturally. As a result, the soft tissues get stretched out of their normal shape.
These injuries often happen while playing sports but can also occur during an accident. For example, you could hyperextend your knee as you lose traction during a slip and fall accident or your neck and back as you whip around during a car crash.
Penetrating injuries involve open wounds.
With enough force, almost any object can pierce your skin and damage the soft tissues underneath. For instance, a tool could fall on you during a workplace accident, or a shard of glass could get embedded in your leg as you slide across the road during a motorcycle accident.
Blunt trauma occurs when you’re struck by an object that doesn’t penetrate your soft tissue. This type of trauma can happen when you get hit by a car or collide with the ground in a pedestrian accident.
Under normal use, your soft tissues develop microscopic tears that subsequently heal.
The process strengthens your soft tissues since the replacement cells usually have less elasticity than the original cells. Thus, exercise only strengthens your muscles when you rest between exercise sessions so your body can heal the tiny tears. When you don’t get sufficient rest, these tears can spread instead of healing.
Overuse injuries often happen to workers with jobs that involve repetitive motions like walking or lifting.
What Are Some Examples of Soft Tissue Injuries?
Soft tissue injuries can take many forms depending on which tissues are damaged and how the injury happened.
Bruises often result from blunt trauma.
The impact breaks blood vessels inside the muscles, and the subsequent bleeding causes symptoms like:
Bruises, even severe ones, usually heal in a matter of days or weeks.
You rarely need to see a doctor about a bruise. Keep in mind, however, that bruises can also accompany more serious injuries. For example, bruises are often present with internal degloving, where the soft tissues get torn deep below the surface.
Strains and Sprains
Strains happen when tendons or muscles are hyperextended.
The torn or stretched tissues produce symptoms such as:
- Muscle pain
- Muscle spasms
Sprains occur when you hyperextend a ligament.
Common symptoms of a torn or stretched ligament include:
- Joint pain
- Joint instability
- Limited range of motion
- A popping sensation or sound during the accident
Mild sprains and strains don’t require surgery; they’ll generally heal on their own in four to six weeks with adequate rest. By contrast, severe injuries involve a full-thickness tear and may require reconstructive surgery and physical therapy.
When you tear cartilage, the loose material can interfere with joint movement. Worse yet, the bones can grind against each other, wearing the surfaces and resulting in chronic joint inflammation.
Common symptoms of torn cartilage include:
- Joint pain
- Clicking noise in the joint
- Hitching when you move the joint
- Limited range of motion
Torn cartilage heals very slowly. As such, your doctor might suggest limiting yourself to light activities for several months while the cartilage repairs itself. In some situations, they may also recommend surgery to remove any loose cartilage floating around in the joint.
How Do You Get Compensation for Soft Tissue Injuries?
If your soft tissue injury happened in the course and scope of your employment, you’re entitled to workers’ compensation benefits, which guarantee medical care and partial disability payments.
For non-work accidents, you can seek compensation, provided that your soft tissue injury happened due to someone else’s negligence.
If you can prove negligence, you stand to recover compensation for various economic damages, such as medical bills and lost income. You can also be compensated for non-economic damages, including pain and suffering.
Soft tissue injuries can temporarily or permanently disable you from working or even caring for yourself. To discuss your soft tissue injuries and the compensation you can seek for them, contact today Petrov Law Firm for a free consultation at (619) 344-0360.