Acute soft tissue injuries.

An acute soft tissue injury can occur in most of the activities outlined and can result in strain, rupture, sprain, fractures etc. The difference between an acute and chronic injury is that the acute injury has a sudden onset usually caused by some kind of definitive event.


Inflammation is the initial response to an acute injury. When cells making up the soft tissues become damaged they release chemicals to initiate an inflammatory response. It is part of the healing process however too much inflammation can prolong the healing process and lead to a delay in regeneration of the cells.

Inflammation is characterised by pain, localised swelling, heat, redness and a loss of function. This stage can typically last around 5 days. Sports injury treatments are intended to minimise the inflammatory phase of an injury, so that the overall healing process is accelerated.

Treatment of an Acute Injury - RICE

R - Rest

Rest is a vital part of repair, if avoided it can expose the injury to further inflammation, pain, abnormal repair and can worsen the injury. Rest should continue until the patient can use the injured part without pain. Avoiding resting an acute injury will prolong repair considerably.

I - Ice

Ice promotes vasoconstriction reducing blood flow to the injury. Reducing the blood flow is an excellent method to reduce the pain and heat associated with inflammation. Ice and cold can also suppresses nerve impulses producing a "numbing" sensation and reducing pain.

A good method if ice application is every 20 minutes of each hour, for a 24-48 hour period.

Note: Use of a towel between ice and skin is recommended to avoid damaging the skin. Do not exceed the recommended time for ice application: Blood flow is necessary in healing to allow nutrient delivery and waste removal.


Compression should follow ice to prevent a return of inflammation, an elastic bandage rather than a firm plastic bandage should be used. Using a non-elastic bandage can result in reduction of adequate blood flow which is potentially damaging. The bandage should be a snug fit so that it does not move freely but loose enough to allow expansion for muscle contraction.


Elevation also aims to reduce swelling by increasing the flow of blood away from the injury and back into the bodies' circulation. This will not only result in less swelling but also aid in waste product removal from the area.

Physical Therapy is best sought once the initial inflammatory phase of an acute injury has passed i.e. Post 24 - 48 hours.