Broken bones that occur following an accident may take several weeks or months to recover and heal, depending on the severity of the break. For many people, the recovery process seems like it should be over once that bone is healed enough to go back to using it normally.
The reality is, though, that a broken bone is just one part of problem. While the bone is a structural part of the body and does need to heal, the soft tissues around it may still cause pain and frustration as it attempts to recover long after the bone has repaired itself.
Soft-tissue injuries: No linear path to healing
Unlike bones, which often heal in a specific pattern and become stronger as a result of the break (depending on age and health), soft tissues are more likely to heal with adhesions and scar tissue that could lead to chronic re-injury.
When soft tissues heal, they do so in a somewhat haphazard way. For example, muscles, ligaments and tendons initially heal with yellow elastic and white non-elastic collagen fibers. These fibers hold the damaged areas together, but there is a catch. Scar tissue isn’t as strong as the original connective tissues were. As a result, soft-tissue injuries are more likely to become reinjured, even as a patient works on their recovery.
The secondary issue is that soft-tissue injuries usually can’t just be rested while they heal. While bones may need to be stable and immobile, immobilizing soft tissue could lead to serious scar tissue and problems with inflexibility. Stretching, anti-inflammatory medications and physical therapy may be used to help prevent this, but the use of the area does mean that it will take longer to heal.
Soft-tissue injuries may be just as serious, if not more so, than broken bones
While many people think that soft-tissue injuries aren’t as serious as broken bones, the pain and dysfunction they can cause after a serious accident may be just as significant, if not more. The right rehabilitative exercises and treatments are necessary to prevent soft-tissue injuries from causing long-term dysfunction and chronic pain among those who have suffered them.