Soft tissue damage refers to damage done to the muscles, ligaments, and tendons throughout the body. It’s usually caused by a traumatic event such as a motor vehicle accident or a slip and fall. It can result in swelling, bruising, and loss of function. Immediately after an injury, the affected area should be protected from further damage by following this simple acronym: RICE.
If pain continues after 72 hours, it’s likely that the injury is more serious. When the soft tissue is inflamed for an extended period of time, particularly in the back or knees, it can substantially affect the alignment of the spinal column and result in long term damage.
If the spinal column is compressed, it may result in something commonly referred to as a pinched nerve. Each of the vertebrae are separated by a gel filled sac that acts as a cushion between the bones. When the muscles surrounding and supporting the spine are inflamed, they push the bones together, squeezing the sac and causing it to bulge. This is known as a bulging disc or a disc bulge. In more serious cases, the sac actually ruptures. When that happens, it’s called a herniated disc or disc herniation. Besides being incredibly painful, these conditions can result in radiculopathy, which is weakness, tingling, or numbness in the extremities.
The existence of a bulging or herniated disc can be confirmed by MRI. Treatment options vary depending on the severity of the case. For some, conservative treatment like physical therapy and chiropractic manipulation will be enough to heal the damaged area. If these methods are unsuccessful, there is the possibility that an epidural injection to the affected area could help reduce inflammation and give the injury an opportunity to heal. If all else fails, spinal fusion or decompression may be an indicated. Other soft tissue injuries, like torn ligaments and ruptured tendons, may also require surgical intervention. Despite a medical provider’s best efforts, these injuries may leave a person with residual pain, discomfort, and physical limitations for the rest of his or her life.
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