Soft Tissue Injury Symptoms and Treatments

Soft tissue injuries, like bruises, sprains, and pulled muscles, are common in kids. Most of the time, you can care for these injuries at home.

Soft tissue injuries tend to swell and bruise less than broken bones. Unlike broken bones, soft tissue injuries recover within 5-7 days. A broken bone can be painful for up to 6-8 weeks.

If you do need to see someone, pediatricians and urgent care can see kids with soft tissue injuries.

Always call 911 if you suspect a serious injury.

If your child is still in pain after 7 to 10 days, you should seek care.

What Are Soft Tissue Injuries?

If bone is your "hard" tissue, your "soft" tissues are the structures that attach and connect bones and muscles. These tissues include your muscles, tendons, and ligaments.

A soft tissue injury is an injury that doesn't involve the bone. This means it's not a fracture (break). Soft tissue injuries are common, especially among young athletes.

The main types of soft tissue injuries are:

  • Bruises (contusions). Kids wind up with soft tissue bruises from falling or getting kicked or hit in sports.
  • Sprains. A sprain is a stretch or tear of a ligament. Ligaments connect your bones to one another. Ankles, knees, and wrists are the most common sprains.
  • Strain. A strain is a muscle injury, commonly called a pulled muscle. Strains also affect your tendons — the structures that attach muscles to bones.

What Are the Signs and Symptoms of a Soft Tissue Injury?

The most common symptoms are:

  • Pain when walking or moving (but your child is able to walk or move it).
  • Swelling.
  • Bruising.

How Do You Treat Soft Tissue Injuries?

Most of the time, you can treat soft tissue injuries at home, using the R.I.C.E. method:

  • Rest. Have your child rest. If they got the injury playing a sport, take a break from practice.
  • Ice. Use ice or cold packs for 20 minutes at a time for the first 48 hours. Do this several times a day (20 minutes on, 20 minutes off is a good rule). Ice helps reduce swelling.
  • Compression. Use a sports wrap or bandage, and wrap tightly (but still comfortably). This helps prevent swelling.
  • Elevation. Raise the injured limb above the level of the heart. This also helps decrease swelling.

You can also give your child medicine to help with pain, such as ibuprofen (Advil) and acetaminophen (Tylenol).

This is the same treatment doctors do for small hairline fractures (sometimes called buckle fractures).

When Should I Call the Doctor?

Call the doctor if your child:

  • Has excessive swelling.
  • Can't walk on or move the limb without severe pain.
  • Has an obviously bent/broken limb.
  • Doesn't improve after 7 to 10 days.

You can also go to UPMC Children's Express Care. They treat many conditions and injuries.

If your child's doctor directs you to our Orthopaedic Trauma department, you can:

We care for kids at: