Soft tissue injuries; don’t push through the pain


Had that long term problem that prevents you from doing certain exercises?

It may have been a distant memory if you addressed it in the beginning.

For the sake of this article, the soft tissues of the body consist of muscle, tendons, ligaments, fascia, skin, fat and bursa. All these will be influenced by exercise, which will in turn cause a degree of injury.

Sometimes the degree of injury is significant enough to limit function for a few days to months or even years. Understanding the healing process might encourage you to follow a recovery program, ice the area immediately, or have the problem diagnosed and a proper rehabilitation program implemented.

Effectively there are 3 phases:

  • Phase 1 – Acute inflammation (0-72 hours) damaged tissue is filled immediately with inflammatory cells. Within 24 hours damaged cells are reclaimed by the body. Scar tissue formation begins.
  • Phase 2 – Proliferation / repair (2 days – 6 weeks) large amounts of scar tissue are laid down. More than is needed, so as stress is applied to the healing tissue, the scar tissue is reduced.
  • Phase 3 – Remodeling / maturation (4 weeks – 12 months) scar tissue is slowly reduced and the healing tissue tends toward assuming the structure of the pre-injured tissue.

The severity of the injury will determine the time taken for complete remodeling and repair to occur.

So even a minor soft tissue injury can take 4 weeks to heal and return to pre-injury strength and function.

For the first 72 hours ice for 10-15 minutes every 2-3 hrs for minimal inflammation and quicker recovery. Begin PAIN FREE range of motion exercises and resistance exercises as soon as able. This may mean substituting your favorite exercise for something different, or easier!

If symptoms don’t improve over 2 weeks seek a diagnosis from a Physiotherapist or Sports Doctor.

This article was provided by James McEwan, Adelaide Physiotherapist.


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