Your soft tissue support, connect and surround your bones and internal organs, and include muscles, tendons, ligaments, fat, skin and blood vessels. The most common soft tissue injuries occur in muscles, tendons and ligaments. Think of injuries such as hamstring strains, tennis elbow or ankle sprains. These conditions often occur during exercise or sports, although they sometimes occur as a result of unknown incidents.
Soft tissue injuries are usually traumatic or repetitive. That is, they can happen suddenly – rolling your ankle when stepping off a curb, for example – or due to overuse. While traumatic injuries are the most dramatic, repetitive injuries are more common, said Mike Matthews, personal trainer in Ocala, Fla., and host of “Muscle For Life,a popular fitness podcast.

“Repetitive soft tissue injuries occur when a tissue sustains more damage than it can heal over a period of time,” Matthews said. “The ultimate cause of all repetitive soft tissue injuries is simply doing too much, too soon.”

To prevent a repetitive injury, you need to take a measured approach to exercise and sport. Ditch the weekend warrior approach in which you’re inactive all week, then run 15 miles (24 kilometers) on the weekend.

“Moderation is key,” said orthopedic physical therapist Scott Cheatham, professor of kinesiology at California State University, Dominguez Hills.

It is also important to slowly acclimate your body to any given activity. “The only proven way to reduce your risk of repetitive soft tissue injury is to gradually increase the volume and intensity of your training over time,” Matthews said.

A good rule of thumb: don’t increase your training volume by more than 10% per week. And every four to eight weeks, rest your body by dramatically reducing the volume and intensity of your workouts. “This ‘three steps forward, one step back’ approach takes discipline and isn’t always fun,” Matthews said, “but it’s the best way to make your body more resilient and durable.”

Cross-training is another good idea, which the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons approved. Since your body’s soft tissues work in different ways or even rest when you’re cycling rather than swimming or playing tennis, it’s an easy preventative measure.

Diet, stress and sleep may also increase the risk

Avoiding soft tissue injuries isn’t necessarily a matter of training, however. Research suggests that major changes in your environment can also affect your risk of injury, Cheatham said, such as poor diet, stress and lack of sleep. If you sleep less than seven hours a night for more than two weeks, your risk of musculoskeletal injury increases 1.7 times, found a study 2021 published in the journal Current Sports Medicine Reports. So eat well, get plenty of sleep, and maybe avoid tough workouts when your stress levels are high.
And what about stretching? Elongation, warm-ups, a post-workout meal and other practices have long been touted to help ward off injury, but there’s no evidence to support these moves, Matthews said. Still, developing a strong core still helps, said physical therapist Aime Maranan, owner of Skillz Physical Therapy in Evanston, Illinois.

“If your core muscles aren’t strong enough to withstand hours of training, their strength will decrease, then spinal stability will decrease, and then your nerves and soft tissues will be irritated,” she said. . “It’s a domino effect.”

Core exercises such as the plank are good, she says, or holding the tabletop position, where you lie on your back with your hips and knees at a 90-degree angle. The quadruped also has value. This exercise consists of getting on your hands and knees, contracting your trunk, then alternating an extension of the right arm and left leg with an extension of the left arm and right leg.

Still, these exercises must be performed correctly, or ironically, they could cause a mild injury. So consult a professional before doing them yourself to ensure proper form. This may be your physical therapist, chiropractor, personal trainer or fitness instructor.

Take any injury seriously

If you injure yourself despite all your precautions, take it seriously. “Even when people realize they have a soft tissue injury, they often continue with their program and whistle past the cemetery, hoping it will get better over time,” Matthews said. “Most often it just gets worse until it hurts enough that the person just can’t exercise because of the pain.”

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Instead of ignoring this muscle or ligament strain, see a qualified healthcare provider and expect to spend a few weeks to a month or more recovering, depending on the severity of the injury, your age, and other factors. More importantly, complete your entire rehab process so another injury doesn’t happen, Cheatham said. Don’t stop the minute you start to feel a little better.

A positive mindset is also the key to a quick recovery. “If you think you won’t get better, you won’t get better. If you think you’ll get hurt again, you’ll get hurt again,” Maranan said. “It starts with your mindset, then religiously does your home workouts and post-exercise recovery routine.” And remember, stay mindful to stay true to form.