Soft Tissue Injury: Definition and What It Is

Medically and clinically reviewed by Jonathan Lee, MD and Maureen Lu, PT, DPT

Soft Tissue Injury Definition and Meaning

Soft tissue injuries that affect the musculoskeletal system occur when there’s damage to a muscle, ligament, or tendon in the body. Soft tissue injuries can range from minor bruises to more serious strains and sprains, as well as conditions like bursitis and tendinitis (tendonitis). They commonly result from activities like sports, exercise, or even everyday tasks.

Soft tissue injuries are categorized as either acute injuries, which occur due to sudden trauma like if you fall and sprain your ankle, or overuse injuries, which develop gradually over time due to repetitive motion, like a shoulder injury from certain job-related tasks. 

Soft Tissue Injury Symptoms

The symptoms of a soft tissue injury can vary depending on the type and severity but typically include pain, swelling, and bruising. For instance, sprains and strains might cause intense pain and limited mobility in the affected area for a short period of time while you heal. Overuse injuries like tendinitis and bursitis may result in more persistent pain and tenderness.

Soft Tissue Injuries: A Hinge Health Perspective

Soft tissue injuries are incredibly common and while they can result in pain, they don’t often cause serious, long-lasting damage. That said, when pain sets in, it can be tempting to avoid any movements that might irritate the affected area, like a pulled hamstring or a sore elbow

But for most common musculoskeletal conditions, regardless of what may or may not be contributing to pain in your tissues, the solution is often the same. Movement — through physical and exercise therapy — helps rehab soft tissue injuries by increasing blood flow and building strength, flexibility, and resilience to pain. 

Soft Tissue Injury Treatment

Many soft tissue injuries can be treated with conservative, at-home measures. While you may be familiar with the R.I.C.E. (rest, ice, compression, and elevation) approach to pain relief for soft tissue injuries, there’s a more updated treatment strategy — P.E.A.C.E. and L.O.V.E. — that prioritizes gentle movement and activity modifications.

How Physical Therapy Can Help With Soft Tissue Injuries

Physical therapy can aid in the treatment of soft tissue injuries. A physical therapist (PT) can recommend specific strengthening and stretching exercises, as well as other lifestyle interventions, to improve function, enhance mobility, and reduce pain in the affected area. You can see a physical therapist in person or use a program like Hinge Health to access a PT via telehealth/video visit.

How Hinge Health Can Help You 

If you have joint or muscle pain that makes it hard to move, you can get the relief you’ve been looking for with Hinge Health’s online exercise therapy program.

The best part: You don’t have to leave your home because our program is digital. That means you can easily get the care you need through our app, when and where it works for you. 

Through our program, you’ll have access to therapeutic exercises and stretches for your condition. 

Additionally, you’ll have a personal care team to guide, support, and tailor our program to you. See if you qualify for Hinge Health and confirm free coverage through your employer or benefit plan here.

This article and its contents are provided for educational and informational purposes only and do not constitute medical advice or professional services specific to you or your medical condition.


  1. Dubois, B., & Esculier, J.-F. (2019). Soft-tissue Injuries Simply Need PEACE and LOVE. British Journal of Sports Medicine, 54(2). doi:10.1136/bjsports-2019-101253

  2. Mulcahey, M. K. (2020, June). Sprains, Strains and Other Soft-Tissue Injuries. OrthoInfo. 

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