Joint and Soft Tissue Injuries

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When people think about severe injuries, broken bones come to mind.  While broken bones are a serious condition, many people forget about the soft tissues.  Mild muscle and joint injuries often heal quickly and without complication.  However, muscle and joint injuries that go beyond mild levels and are more severe, such as those that result from auto collisions and work accident, can take much more time and effort to heal. 

Soft tissues that are commonly injured include muscles and ligaments.  Ligaments have poor blood flow and often take quite a while before pain and stiffness improve.  Symptoms from most ligament injuries heal within 3 months, but healing time can vary due to a variety of factors such as reinjury that can occur while you are healing. 

Muscles have much better blood flow and often heal more steadily.  Symptoms from most muscle injuries heal between a few weeks to a few months. 

Immobilization, rest, and ice immediately following a joint injury are important to help limit inflammation and further damage.  However, immobilization after the initial acute phase can be harmful to your recovery.  When joints are immobilized, scar tissue can form links across and between the fibers of muscles and ligaments.  These cross links can pull on tissues and restrict motion causing pain.  An example of a situation that can lead to this kind of restriction is having a cast placed on a joint to protect a broken bone.  After the bone has sufficiently healed and the cast is removed, joint movement is restricted. 

Exercise and movement are an important aspect of soft tissue healing.  Exercise and movement help to prevent formation of cross links in tissues that can lead to restriction and pain.  Exercise and movement also help to prevent onset of chronic pain.

Early exercises for joints may involve range of motion movement.  Such movement may include passive movements, where the joint is moved in its range of motion without the uses of muscles.  For instance, swinging the shoulder with the assistance of gravity for shoulder injuries.  Other exercises may involve active movement, where a joint is moved using the muscles, but without resistance, such as seated knee flexion and extension movement without standing. 

After swelling and inflammation have improved, stretches and strengthening exercise are necessary.  Light stretches and exercise help to reorganize tissue fibers into a functional direction, where the muscles and tissues can move within their normal range of motion, and resist movement outside of the normal range of motion.

Lifting heavy weights should be limited after joint injuries until the ligaments have had enough time to heal and stabilize, as weight lifting places increased force on the muscles and ligaments which support the joint.

Chiropractic care is a safe and effective treatment for joint and soft tissue injuries.  A Chiropractor will be able to assess your injury and develop a treatment plan with appropriate stretches and exercises for you.  Visit a chiropractic clinic if you are suffering from pain from an auto or work injury.