Soft tissue injuries sound minor. You might assume that these injuries only include conditions like cuts and bruises.
But soft tissue injuries can cause problems that last for the rest of your life. A torn ligament or tendon can prevent you from working. And torn cartilage could rob you of the ability to stand, lift, or walk.
Here are some facts surrounding soft tissue injuries and how you can be compensated for them in your personal injury claim.
What Is Soft Tissue?
Doctors typically use “soft tissue” to refer to the parts of your musculoskeletal system other than bones.
This definition excludes tissue that is technically “soft” but does not perform a musculoskeletal function, such as:
- Blood vessels
- Lymph vessels and nodes
Instead, soft tissue includes the following structures.
Muscles and Tendons
Muscles move your body by contracting and relaxing. They anchor to your skeleton through tendons. Together, your muscles and tendons provide movement and strength to your body.
Ligaments connect bones and hold your skeleton together, particularly at joints. They provide structure and flexibility to your body.
Cartilage is a tough, flexible material made of collagen and protein.
Cartilage serves several purposes in the body, including:
- Cooperating with ligaments to hold bones together at joints
- Providing a smooth interface inside joints
- Protecting bones from wear
- Cushioning joints from jolts and impacts
Cartilage makes up most of the connective tissue in your body.
Fasciae surround muscles to keep the fibers together. Fasciae also surround and support organs. They cooperate with ligaments to keep organs in their correct places.
What Are the Causes of a Soft Tissue Injury?
Soft tissue injuries typically happen in the following four ways.
Blunt Force Injury
Blunt force impacts happen when something collides with your body without penetrating the skin. For example, you will suffer a blunt force impact if your body hits the road after getting hit by a car in a bicycle accident.
Penetrating injuries happen when something penetrates your skin. Lacerations, abrasions, and punctures result from a penetrating injury. The risks of penetrating injuries come from tissue damage and infection.
Hyperextension happens when soft tissue gets pulled, twisted, or bent beyond its inherent material strength. Like an elastic band, soft tissue will stretch to a point; then, it will deform and tear.
Soft tissue injuries that occur from hyperextension include torn ligaments, torn muscles and tendons, and hernias.
Overuse can create small tears in your soft tissue. If you rest, your body can repair these small tears. But if you repeat the motions that caused the tears, they will propagate.
Workers who perform repetitive motions like standing, walking, lifting, and carrying have a high risk of developing an overuse injury. Typically, workers’ compensation covers these types of injuries when they happen at work.
What Are the Types of Soft Tissue Injuries?
Soft tissue injuries can take many forms, depending on the type of forces your body experiences during the accident and where those forces get applied. Here are some common types of soft tissue injuries.
Lacerations happen when something cuts or tears your soft tissue. Minor cuts will heal with first aid, but severe cuts may require stitches or staples to reduce bleeding and hold the soft tissue together while it heals. If a tendon or ligament gets lacerated, you may need surgery to repair it.
Lacerations can lead to infection. Infection happens when microorganisms like bacteria enter your body. Between the toxins released by the bacteria and your body’s reaction to them, infections can make you very ill. Fortunately, doctors can treat most infections with antibiotics.
Bruises happen when an impact breaks blood vessels without breaking the skin. The blood pools in your muscles. Bruises heal with time but may cause pain and discoloration near the bruise.
Strains and Sprains
Sprains happen when you stretch or tear a ligament. You can often identify a sprain by the popping sound or sensation at the time of the injury.
Sprains can cause a range of symptoms, including:
- Joint instability
- Joint stiffness
Strains occur when a muscle or tendon gets stretched or torn.
Muscle and tendon strain can produce symptoms such as:
- Muscle spasm
- Muscle stiffness
Strains and sprains typically heal without surgery. Instead, your doctor will likely recommend icing the injury and resting it. You can also take anti-inflammatory drugs to reduce pain and inflammation.
Cartilage lines your joints.
A cartilage tear can produce symptoms such as:
- Joint stiffness
- Clicking sound or feeling in the joint
- Sticking or locking joint
Torn cartilage heals very slowly. A doctor can immobilize your joint to promote healing. Doctors can also operate on some cartilage injuries to remove cartilage that is loose or stuck in the joint.
Repetitive Stress Injuries
Repetitive stress injuries, such as tendonitis and fasciitis, happen due to overuse. Overuse can cause soft tissue to inflame. As it swells, it presses on nearby nerves. The nerves, in turn, inflame and misfire, causing stabbing, burning, or aching pain.
The only treatment for these injuries is rest and anti-inflammatory drugs.
How Do I Get Compensation for Soft Tissue Injuries?
When you suffer a soft tissue injury at work, you can typically claim workers’ compensation benefits. You can generally get these benefits whether your injury resulted from an accident or repetitive motions.
If someone else’s negligence causes your soft tissue injury, you may be entitled to seek compensation from the at-fault party in a personal injury lawsuit. For example, if the cartilage in your knee was torn in a car accident where the other driver ran a red light, you can file an insurance claim or lawsuit against the at-fault driver.
This compensation will cover your economic losses, like your medical bills and the income you lost while resting and healing.
Of course, you can also suffer non-economic losses. Non-economic damages will compensate you for your diminished quality of life due to your injuries. Examples of non-economic losses include pain, mental anguish, inconvenience, and inability to perform tasks.
Soft tissue injuries can cause severe pain and deprive you of the ability to meet your daily needs. They can also prevent you from working. To discuss your soft tissue injuries with an experienced Los Angeles personal injury lawyer, contact the M&Y Personal Injury Lawyers to schedule a free consultation.