Painful soft-tissue conditions result from different forms of trauma to muscles, tendons and ligaments, such as injuries and overuse in sports and athletic activities, and from overuse or repetitive motion in daily activities and work.
According to U.S. Bureau of Labor statistics, work-related soft-tissue conditions like carpal tunnel syndrome, back pain, hernia and tendonitis are responsible for 35% of lost work days and cost more than $20 billion annually in workers compensation.
It is difficult to estimate the number of soft-tissue conditions related to sports and recreational activities, either from trauma or overuse. But examples are legion and all too familiar: stress fractures; shin splints; rotator cuff injuries; ligament strains and tears; and tendonitis, such as Achilles tendonitis, IT band syndrome, tennis or golfer’s elbow. These and other sports-related injuries send an estimated 2.6 million children up to age 19 to the emergency room every year in the United States.
How these conditions should be treated is something every patient needs to discuss with their doctor. A combination of treatment options, including rest, icing and/or heat, medication, and surgery if deemed necessary, is frequently recommended. However, physiotherapy is a primary component of treatment pursued because it is the less invasive than surgery, does not involve the side effects of medications, and has the greatest chance to not only heal the source of the pain but possibly prevent it from recurring, depending on the nature of the condition.
Manual physiotherapy offers a number of treatment options that are effective for relieving and healing soft-tissue conditions. These include stretching, massage, soft-tissue mobilization (breaking up knots and relaxing scar tissue in muscles), manipulation (manual or instrument-applied pressure), muscle mobilization (slow, measured movements), and different specific approaches like the McKenzie Technique and the Mulligan Concept. Ultrasound and electrical stimulation are other techniques available to physiotherapists when treating pain related to soft-tissue conditions.
A licensed physiotherapist will devise a comprehensive treatment program that works in concert with other forms of treatment prescribed by a doctor. In addition to in-clinic physiotherapy, this comprehensive approach includes in-home treatment such as exercises, stretching and icing to reduce inflammation.
As with all treatment by physiotherapists, the progress a patient makes on the recovery plan is assessed by the physiotherapist and written in detailed notes that are shared regularly with the doctor. This is important in treating soft-tissue conditions because patients may need less medication to reduce pain as progress is made in physiotherapy toward restoring function, mobility and flexibility of affected areas.
Impact of soft-tissue injuries on workplace:
Children emergency room visits for sports-related injuries: