Soft Tissue Injury

About a year ago, I was playing a challenging pickup basketball game. The game was pretty physical and competitive, which I enjoyed.

It's easy to get a soft tissue injury while playing basketball.As a former collegiate athlete, I try to get my competitive fix whenever possible. As I drove to the hole and attempted a layup, I was pushed from behind in mid-air, came down uncontrolled, stepped on a person’s foot, and ended up spraining my ankle. My fun day and my weeks of activities were over after that moment. I think most people can relate to spraining an ankle or having a soft tissue injury that has reduced function for a short time. The actions performed in the next 48-72 hours are critical to recovery.


RICE has been used for the treatment of acute injuries for decades.

The term was introduced by Dr. Gabe Mirkin in 1978 with the idea of decreasing or controlling the amount of tissue inflammation, pain, and swelling after an acute injury. The belief was that RICE would aid the recovery process.

Current evidence dispels the use of RICE due to the importance of inflammation in the initial stage of healing. Even more crucial early movement and appropriate loading have been shown to expedite the healing process. Acronyms such as POLICE (protect, optimal loading, ice, compression, elevate) or MEAT (movement, exercise, analgesics, treatment) are more current and appropriate for treating soft tissue injuries.


Five things to do after a soft tissue injury:

Protect The Injury

Protect the injury from further injury or harm. This is context-dependent and doesn’t always mean stopping the activity that was being performed. Taping, bracing, offloading, and casting are some ways to protect an acute soft tissue injury.

Find Comfortable Movements

Early movements after injuries can help the recovery process. From a physiological and psychological perspective, early activities encourage positive healing characteristics. The early movements should be small, slow, and pain-free. Moving neighboring joints also can be beneficial. For example, doing toe or knee movements if my ankle hurts too much.

Control The Pain

Controlling pain early on may encourage more movement and fewer negative emotions. Moreover, pain can be a gauge to progress to the next exercise stage. There is a bit of controversy on how early to use ice, so I’ll keep that discretionary. Other means of analgesics are topical agents, over-the-counter medications, supplements, drinks, exercise, and breathing techniques.

Control The Swelling

Uncontrolled and long-lasting swelling is not advantageous to healing because it can increase pain and limit loading and movement capacities. Therefore use modalities like ice, compression garments, massage, and others to control swelling. Some evidence suggests that allowing the initial swelling phase to be unabated improves the recovery from a physiological standpoint. Therefore some suggest delaying treatment for swelling for anywhere between 12-48 hours.

Get Treatment

I saved the best for last. Getting treatment from a licensed practitioner as quickly as possible is the best decision. A qualified medical practitioner, such as a Physical Therapist, Medical Doctor, or Physician Assistant, can be instrumental in your healing journey. They can provide you with a specific diagnosis, prognosis, direction on the next treatment steps, and their experiential knowledge. In many states, Physical Therapists have Direct Access which means that you can see them without a script for a least a certain period of time before having a prescription from an MD. In some states, PTs are autonomous practitioners who can treat without a script. I suggest seeing a PT for soft tissue injuries first because you will save money and time, be holistically evaluated, and be directed to proper care if more complex or sinister diagnoses are present. Studies show a better prognosis the earlier one gets care.

About the author : Stephen Picardi

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