For many acute soft-tissue injuries, initial treatment with rest, ice, compression and elevation, known as RICE, is usually effective, according to the American Association of Orthopedic Surgeons. More serious injuries may need treatment with bracing, physical therapy or surgery. For soft-tissue injuries due to overuse, types of treatment include rest, oral anti-inflammatories, steroid injections, drainage or surgery.
The RICE protocol should be the first step after an acute injury, the AAOS advises. The person should rest and take weight off the injured area, use ice packs for 20 minutes at a time several times a day, use an elastic compression bandage to reduce swelling and prevent blood loss, and elevate the injury above the level of the heart, which also helps reduce swelling. Acute soft-tissue injuries include sprains, overstretching or tearing of a ligament; strains, overstretching or tearing in muscle tissue and/or tendons; and contusions, in which underlying muscle and connective tissue is crushed by a blow.
Soft-tissue injuries due to overuse develop over time because of repeated stress to an area without allowing adequate time to heal completely, explains the AAOS. One common of this type is tendinitis, which is inflammation or irritation of the tendon by ongoing small stresses. Another type is bursitis, in which the small fluid-filled sacs that cushion the space between bones and soft tissue become inflamed and swollen.