Car Accident Soft Tissue Injury Symptoms & Treatment

At Pro-Care, our team of specialists and experts offer world-class medical care for soft tissue injury from car accidents.

When you think of a car accident, the first injuries that come to mind may be broken bones or cuts and scrapes. But some of the most common injuries sustained in an accident involve soft tissue, including tendons, muscles, and ligaments throughout the body. In fact, the most common car accident injury, whiplash, is a soft tissue injury. These injuries can be difficult to identify on your own, so it is important to seek care from professionals who know how to spot the signs of soft tissue damage. At ProCare, our car accident doctors are able to evaluate you even before you notice there is a problem, then create and complete a comprehensive soft tissue injury treatment plan. 

When Should You Get Treatment For Soft Tissue Injuries?

While some soft tissue injuries are mild, they can also be very serious or, when left untreated, cause chronic pain and issues. This is especially common after car accidents when the adrenaline and shock can prevent you from even realizing you’ve been injured in the first place. Delayed symptoms mean that you are walking around with an injury you don’t know about, potentially placing more strain on the tissue along the way. 

The best way to prevent this is to seek medical care immediately following any car accident, even if you feel healthy. Car accident doctors will be able to look for signs of soft tissue damage that you aren’t feeling yet and begin treatment before it worsens.

It’s also possible you will notice the injury right away and seek treatment based on your symptoms. While each injury differs slightly, some common signs of a soft tissue injury include: 

  • The feeling of a lump or “knot” at the site of the injury
  • Inability to bear weight 
  • Instability of the joints
  • Poor range of motion
  • Cramping or spasms in the muscle
  • Muscle weakness
  • Pain
  • Swelling
  • Visible bruising 

You can often manage early symptoms on your own while you wait to see a car accident doctor. RICE (Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation) is effective for most soft tissue injuries and can help prevent further damage while relieving pain. In general, it is best to avoid movement as much as possible until you can be examined – some soft tissue injuries benefit from movement, but until you are sure that’s the case, avoiding more damage is important.

Some signs that the issue is more pressing and requires treatment beyond RICE may be:

  • The inability to put any weight on the injury
  • An unusual deformity or shape 
  • A pop or crack sound at the time of injury
  • “Pins and needles” feeling or numbness

Soft tissue injuries should be treated quickly, but most are not emergency situations. If you experience the complete inability to move any part of your body, bleeding that can’t be stopped, or an injury to the head, seek immediate care. 

Our Personalized Care For Soft Tissue Injuries

Soft tissue injuries can have many manifestations, be located throughout the body, and range greatly in severity. No two patients will have the same soft tissue injury treatment plan, which is why we examine each person individually and create a set of treatments that is exactly what they need.

The exact injury and what tissue it involves will determine what these treatment protocols look like. But there are three stages of treatment generally used to address soft tissue injuries. 

Stage One: In the first 48-72 hours, the most important thing is to protect the injured structure and obtain an accurate diagnosis. A doctor will be able to determine what happened, what tissue was impacted, and how severe the injury is in this time frame. Unless surgery is needed, this stage will not be about treatment, but about preparing for rehabilitation and recovery. RICE will be implemented in this time frame, and gentle movement is often encouraged. 

Stage Two: Once the initial period has ended and the body has had time to rest and recuperate, the focus will shift toward reducing any swelling or stiffness that may prevent movement. By removing these barriers, there is room to begin working on regaining normal patterns of movement. Physical therapy is usually the most critical component of this stage, as it focuses on this return to movement, strengthening of the nearby tissue, and encouraging range of motion. 

Stage Three: When basic function has returned, there is additional work to help return fully to normal activities. This final stage can last a long time, even months or years, in severe injuries, but is critical to a patient’s quality of life. 

Throughout these stages of healing, doctors may use a variety of techniques and tools to achieve recovery. The exact methodology will differ for every patient in order to directly address their injury and needs.

How Are Soft Tissue Injuries Diagnosed?

Soft tissue injuries can be difficult to diagnose because they often do not have any visible markers outside the body. Some issues may result in deformities, bruising, or obvious symptoms like a loss of movement. However, most injuries are such that they cannot be seen and instead come up as a result of symptoms. 

Discussing those symptoms will be the first thing you do when being diagnosed with a soft tissue injury. Your doctor may ask questions about your symptoms, perform a physical examination to determine your strength and range of motion, and inquire about your medical history or the details of your car accident. If you are not yet presenting with symptoms, the details of your accident can help a doctor to determine what kind of injuries were possible. For example, if you were rear-ended, whiplash is more likely and they may examine your neck and shoulders.

Often this is enough information for them to understand the type of injury you suffered, but they will then perform scans to understand the severity. 

X-rays do not show soft tissue injuries, as they are focused on the bones. You may undergo an x-ray to rule out broken or fractured bones in the surrounding area, but not to identify soft tissue damage. MRIs and CT scans are most commonly used for this purpose, as they create detailed images of the body’s tissue. These scans can help identify an injury, as well as show how severe it may be in order to guide treatment. In many cases, an MRI or CT scan can also show subtle fractures that X-rays may miss, as they show bones along with tendons, ligaments, cartilage, and muscle.

Soft Tissue Injury Treatment & Recovery

At ProCare Medical, our team is made up of car accident doctors who specialize in soft tissue injuries and related conditions. Our goal is to provide as much pain relief as possible through comprehensive medical care, guidance for home care, and additional education. 

For many car accident patients, home care is enough to address the soft tissue injuries they are facing. While you should always be examined by a doctor, we often encourage patients to follow simple steps at home before visiting us again to determine if they are still suffering. Some basic home care for soft tissue damage can include: 

  • Resting the injured area for a short period, then engaging in gentle movement to regain strength. 
  • Use ice in the initial period after an injury to reduce swelling, then later use heat to loosen muscles and relieve pain. 
  • Over-the-counter medications, like NSAIDs, can address pain and reduce inflammation. 
  • Do not push yourself to return to normal too quickly. 

When simple home remedies are not enough, ProCare creates a comprehensive treatment and rehab plan that is unique to each patient. These plans take advantage of our specialists across disciplines, who work together to achieve a holistic course of treatment that addresses the root cause of your symptoms. Your treatment plan may include: 

  • Targeted adjustments by a chiropractor 
  • Orthopedic treatment, including casting, bracing, and surgical intervention 
  • Neurological treatment, including massage therapy 

Because all of these services can be done at ProCare Medical, you don’t have to worry about bouncing between providers who have different ideas of how to help you. Instead, your doctors will work together to achieve the same goal: helping you live a pain-free life after a car accident.

Our List Of Accepted Insurance And Patients Seen Under a Letter of Protection (Personal Injury)

ProCare is able to accept insurance plans from the following providers:

  • Aetna
  • BlueCross BlueShield
  • Cigna
  • Great-West Healthcare
  • Humana
  • Medicare
  • MultiPlan
  • Oscar
  • PHCS
  • TriCare
  • United Healthcare

If you do not have insurance coverage through these providers, we are happy to work with you in advance of treatment to determine the best path forward.

Frequently Asked Questions On Soft Tissue Injury From Car Accident

In general, sprains are the most common injury to soft tissue. Sprains occur when ligament tissues are overused or torn. However, after a car accident, the most common soft tissue injury is whiplash, which is an overstretching of the muscles in your neck.

Most soft tissue injuries are healed within 6 weeks, or less for a very mild sprain or strain. However, more serious injuries can take a few months to completely heal. Some people experience chronic pain from soft tissue injuries that are not treated properly.

Minor soft tissue injuries can often be treated with basic home care like ice, pain medicine, and rest. But this should always be done under the guidance of a doctor, who is able to confirm the severity of the injury and provide guidance on additional treatment that may be needed.

Soft tissue injuries can cause symptoms such as pain, swelling, instability, and trouble moving the affected part of the body. After a car accident, it is common for these symptoms to be delayed, not appearing until days or weeks after the event. A car accident doctor can perform physical exams and imaging to determine what kind of soft tissue damage has occurred and how severe it is.