Have you ever painted a whole room and had a sore arm or shoulder the next day? What about serious pain and swelling in that shoulder the day after? That would be an example of a soft tissue injury. The same kind of injury can happen in a car accident if a body part is twisted, bruised, or quickly moved back and forth. Just like pain from painting can take hours to show up, the same thing can happen after an accident.
What Is a Soft Tissue Injury?
Soft tissues are muscles, tendons, ligaments, nerves, fat, and blood vessels. They are tissues that connect, support, or surround structures and organs in the body. When they are injured, they become stretched or torn and cause swelling and pain. Some examples of soft tissue injuries from trauma, such as a car accident:
- Sprains. A twist of an ankle, knee, or wrist could cause a tear in a ligament, otherwise known as a sprain. If the ligament gets torn completely, surgery might be needed to repair it.
- Strains. Trauma can cause an injury to a muscle or tendon. If the muscle tears, surgery could be needed.
- Bruises. Also known as contusions, bruises cause pain, swelling, and discoloration from the bleeding into tissue. Larger, more serious contusions should be examined by a doctor.
- Whiplash. When the neck is quickly moved from one direction to another, it can cause damage to the muscles, or whiplash. If left untreated, this could become a life-long injury.
What Causes the Delay?
Right after a car accident, the body’s immediate reaction is to pump adrenaline. Adrenaline masks any injury that you otherwise might feel right away. So even though you feel like you’re fine, you could have whiplash, a sprain, or any other kind of soft tissue injury.
A soft tissue injury is different from a broken bone because it might not cause pain right away, but a broken bone is usually felt immediately after the break. Inflammation, swelling, and spasms in tissues can take either minutes or hours to develop, all while you’re still using that part of the body and causing more trauma. The pain then shows up after the inflammation has developed and feels like it was delayed even though the injury has been there for hours.
If you go to the doctor right after an accident, they might be able to catch the soft tissue injury before you even know you have it. Waiting a few days to go to the doctor might delay and extend your recovery time. Soft tissue injuries require rest, ice, compression, and elevation (RICE) to heal. Recovery could take one to six weeks, sometimes more depending on the severity. Muscles, ligaments, and tendons are made up of connective tissue, but when they are injured, they heal with scar tissue, which is weaker than the original. This could lead to re-injury in the future, so you must be mindful of that injury for the rest of your life.
Not only is it important to see a doctor right away to treat your injury, it’s also important to go to the doctor so that you have documentation of an injury within the statute of limitations. In South Carolina, you have three years after the incident to file a claim. If you’ve suffered a soft tissue injury from a car accident, contact us today for your free consultation to see how we can support you through the legal process while you focus on healing.