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Nov 09, 2021

What Types of Injuries Require Physical Therapy


Injuries account for 37.9 million visits to the emergency room each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Fortunately, physical therapy is available to help you return to the activities you love after experiencing an injury.

In this article, we will examine the types of injuries requiring physical therapy, where these injuries most commonly occur, and how physical therapy helps reduce your pain and heal your injury.

Soft Tissue Injuries

Muscles, tendons, and ligaments are examples of soft tissue and can suffer injury.

  • Muscles

Muscles are soft-tissue organs that provide stability and movement for the human body. They consist of fibers that can stretch or tear.

  • Tendons

Tendons are soft tissues that connect muscles to bones, allowing you to move your joints. Tendons are made of collagen, your body’s strongest protein.

The most common tendon injury is the Achilles tendon injury which can be caused by straining or twisting the Achilles tendon.

  • Ligaments

Ligaments are strong bands that are usually composed of two strips of fibrous connective tissue. They function to connect bones to other bones. They play a key role in maintaining the stability and range of motion in a joint.

Ligament injuries can be quite painful and require surgery to repair.

Soft tissue injuries are the most common type of injury because they often happen when you engage in everyday activities that can damage your muscles and joints.

Different types of soft tissue injuries can be classified as sprains, strains, or tears.

Sprain Injuries

Twisted ankles are the most common sprain injuries and often happen when people fall or twist suddenly. This sudden jarring forces the joint out of its normal position and overstretches the ligament in the process.

Sprain injuries can be quite painful initially, and signs and symptoms include:

  • Pain
  • Swelling
  • Bruising
  • Inability to use the joint

Strain Injuries

A strain injury is the over-stretching of a muscle or tendon. Have you ever leaned over to pick something up and discovered the item was much heavier than you expected it to be? Most of us have.

Ouch! You instantly realize you may have “pulled a muscle.” This is one of the ways strains happen; when a muscle is misused, fatigued, or overused, it can get injured.

The severity of the injury ranges from mild to severe.

Signs and symptoms of a strain injury include:

  • Swelling, bruising, or redness
  • Pain
  • Muscle or tendon weakness
  • Muscle spasms
  • Complete loss of muscle function

Tear Injuries

Tear injuries happen when a tendon, muscle, or ligament fibers partially or entirely tear after being overstretched suddenly and quickly.  

Sometimes you’ll hear a popping sound followed by intense pain when a tendon, muscle, or ligament tears (or ruptures).

Signs and symptoms of tendon or ligament tears include:

  • A “popping” sensation
  • Severe pain and inability to continue the activity you were doing
  • Rapid swelling
  • Loss of range of motion
  • Inability to bear weight on the injured area
  • A feeling of instability

Even if surgery is necessary to repair a tear, physical therapy is beneficial before and afterward.

Initial steps to treat a new injury for the first 24-72 hours typically include the P.R.I.C.E. Protocol:

  • Protection: to avoid further injury
  • Rest: to allow the body’s healing process to begin
  • Ice: to reduce blood flow to the injury site
  • Compression: to minimize swelling
  • Elevation: to keep injury at/above heart level and prevent fluid accumulation at the injury site

Where Do Most Injuries Occur?

Most injuries in the U.S. occur in a sports setting, at home, or at work.

1. Sports Injuries

Participating in sports is both fun and beneficial for your overall health. The downside is that it does increase your risk of getting injured. The most common sports injuries include:

  • A.C.L. (anterior crucial ligament) knee injuries
  • Ankle sprains
  • Concussions
  • Rotator cuff injuries
  • Runner’s knee
  • Shin splints
  • Tennis elbow or Little League elbow

Physical therapy offers you the opportunity to return to the sport you love after a sport-related injury.

2. Home Injuries

Slips, trips, and falls are the most common cause of injuries in the home. Physical therapy not only helps you recover from your fall injury but also helps you reduce your risk of falling again by:

  • Assessing your fall risk.
  • Helping improve your home’s safety.
  • Providing you with education about your medical risk factors that can increase your fall risk.
  • Designing a personalized exercise and balance training program.
  • Improving your ability increase your fitness.

3. Work Injuries

While increased health and safety measures in the workplace have significantly reduced the amount of work-related injuries, they do still happen. The most common work-related injuries result from:

  • Slipping
  • Tripping
  • Falling
  • Overexertion
  • Repetitive movements
  • Workplace equipment
  • Fires and explosions

Physical therapy provides a pathway to healing from work-related injuries.

How Physical Therapy Helps You Heal From an Injury

These goals help you prevent future injuries and participate in the activities you love.

1. Reducing or eliminating pain

Pain can cause you to injure other parts of your body by overcompensating as you try to protect the painful area. Physical therapy strives to reduce or eliminate your pain.

2. Improving flexibility and range of motion

Physical therapy incorporates specific exercises and other treatments designed to improve your flexibility and range of motion.

3. Increasing strength

Physical therapy increases your strength through tailoring to your needs and including treatments such as passive and active strength exercises.

4. Preventing re-injury

Educating you about how to prevent another injury is an essential goal of physical therapy.

Physical Therapy At Rock Valley PT

Our physical therapists at Rock Valley PT are skilled experts who help you recover from injuries through hands-on care, education, and treatments tailored to your specific needs. Contact us today so you can heal and enjoy your life to the fullest.