Soft tissue swelling is caused by injury or inflammation of tissue, ligaments, or tendons that surround bones. It can range from a minor bruise or bump to a fracture or dislocated joint. Treatment for soft tissue injuries depends on the severity of the situation and how it occurred. Mild cases of bruising generally heal without intervention, but severe strains or sprains may require a doctor's care until tendons and ligaments completely mend.
Bumps and bruises are common, especially among children. Blood forms under the skin from a blow or banging a part of the body against a solid object, creating a contusion. Most bruises heal over several days, changing color as the blood dissipates. If swelling or pain is present, ice packs often provide relief.
Sprains commonly occur in joints like the knee, wrist, or ankle, when a ligament is partially or completely torn. Ligaments connect one bone to another at the joints of the body. Soft tissue swelling and bruising may appear with a sprain, depending on how much the ligament is torn. If the sprain is severe, the injured person may be unable to bear weight on the limb, and might need a splint to immobilize the injured area.
Strains also produce swollen tissues, and happen when a muscle or tendon is pulled or twisted. These types of injuries often occur when playing sports or incorrectly lifting heavy objects. They also surface when a person overuses his or her body without proper training or preparation. Chronic soft tissue swelling typically happens with repetitive movement over a period of time.
Tendinitis provokes soft tissue swelling when stress is placed upon the sheath covering tendons, and inflammation ensues. Bursitis also stems from inflammation but is a swelling in a sac containing fluid that rests between tendons and bones. The fluid allows joints to move smoothly without causing pain.
Treatment of soft tissue swelling routinely calls for rest, ice, elevating the injured area, and use of an elastic bandage or tape to compress the injury. A bandage provides support and can help minimize swelling. If an injury to a ligament or tendon is severe, a splint may be needed to prevent further damage. When soft tissue swelling is accompanied by a snapping sound or deformity, it could indicate a fracture or dislocation of the joint, and medical attention should be sought.