Soft Tissue Knee Injuries: Cause, Symptoms, and Treatment Options

A woman sitting on the ground while suffering from knee pain

Soft Tissue Knee Injuries: Cause, Symptoms, and Treatment Options

Did you know soft tissue injuries are responsible for more than half of all sports-related injuries? Soft tissue knee injuries can be incredibly frustrating and debilitating, from strains and sprains to tendonitis and contusions. Unfortunately, these injuries affect people of all ages and activity levels. That’s why it’s essential to understand the causes, symptoms, and treatment options for soft tissue knee injuries.

Our experienced doctors of physical therapy will discuss everything you need to know about soft tissue injuries, including how they occur, their symptoms, and how to treat them for a speedy recovery.

What Exactly is a Soft Tissue Knee Injury?

Your knee is undoubtedly one of your body’s most essential and complex joints. It supports your weight and facilitates various movements. Unfortunately, it’s also vulnerable to multiple injuries, including soft tissue injuries. A soft tissue knee injury occurs when the muscles, ligaments, or tendons around your knee joint are injured or damaged. 

The tendons, muscles, and ligaments in and around your knee joints support it. These soft tissues also provide mobility and stability to your knee. However, these soft tissues are vulnerable to injury and damage, especially during repetitive and sudden movements.

Here are some common types of soft tissue injuries:

  • Sprains – A sprain refers to the stretching or tearing of the tough and fibrous tissues that connect the bones in your knee joint. These fibrous tissues are also known as ligaments. Typically, sprains occur due to activities that involve twisting movements or sudden changes in direction.
  • Strains – A strain is the tearing or stretching of a muscle or tendon around or in your knee joint. Like sprains, strains also occur during activities that involve forceful or sudden movements, such as running or jumping. Please note that strains affect the tendons, whereas a sprain affects a ligament. Moreover, sprains tend to be more severe than strains.
  • Bursitis – Bursitis is the inflammation of the tiny fluid-filled sacs in your knee joint. They are also known as bursae and are responsible for cushioning the joint and reducing tissue friction. In most cases, bursitis occurs due to repetitive movements or overuse.
  • Tendinitis – Tendinitis is the inflammation of tendons around your knee joint. Tendons are fibrous tissues that connect the muscles in your knee joint to bones. They also provide stability and strength to your knee joint.

Knee Pain

If you suspect you have developed a soft tissue knee injury, seeking medical attention promptly is highly advisable. A qualified healthcare provider will perform physical exams and even order imaging tests to determine the severity of the damage.

What are the Common Symptoms of a Soft Tissue Knee Injury?

Soft tissue knee injuries are known to cause various symptoms depending on the type and severity of your injury. Even so, here are common symptoms to watch out for:

  • Pain – Are you experiencing pain around your knee joint, especially during movements that exert pressure on the injured tissue? If you are, the chances are that you have a soft tissue knee injury.
  • Swelling – Swelling is another common symptom of a soft tissue knee injury. In most cases, the swelling is localized to the injured area. However, it can also spread to other parts of your knee joint.
  • Stiffness – Stiffness is also a common symptom of a soft tissue knee injury. You will likely find it hard to move your knee joint, especially after periods of inactivity.
  • Instability – Instability is another common symptom of a soft tissue injury. It usually occurs if you have a sprained ankle.
  • Bruising – You may also notice bruising, especially after spraining a ligament or straining a muscle. The bruising may be focused on the injured area or spread to other parts of your knee joint.

In addition to these symptoms, you may also notice other symptoms, such as:

  • Weakness
  • Muscle spasms
  • Numbness or tingling
  • DiscolorationA man holding his knee while in pain

What are the Common Causes of Soft Tissue Knee Injuries?

Several factors can contribute to soft tissue knee injuries. Some of the notable causes include:

  • Accidents
  • Overuse injuries
  • Aging
  • Being overweight or obese
  • Poor conditioning
  • Sports activities

It’s essential to note that soft tissue knee injuries can occur to anyone regardless of physical condition or age.

What are the Best Treatment Options for Soft Tissue Knee Injuries?

Treating a soft tissue knee injury promptly and effectively is the secret to a successful recovery. Below is a range of treatment options for your soft tissue knee injury.

  • Rest and Ice

One tried and proven approach for treating soft tissue knee injuries is rest and ice. Resting and applying ice on the affected area will help prevent further damage and give your body ample time to heal. Ice will also help reduce inflammation and pain.

  • Compression

Compressing the injured knee will help provide support and reduce swelling. You can use a wrap or a compression bandage to support the wounded knee.

  • Elevation

Elevating the affected leg can help promote healing and reduce swelling. Remember to elevate the knee above the heart to promote proper blood circulation.

  • Medications

Certain medications, including nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs and over-the-counter pain relievers, can help reduce the inflammation and alleviate the pain associated with your soft tissue knee injury. However, always consult your healthcare provider before using any medicine.

  • Physical Therapy

Physical therapy has proved to be one of the most effective treatment options for soft tissue knee injuries. It can help restore your injured knee’s strength, range of motion, and flexibility. Also, physical therapy can strengthen the muscles and bones around the knee joint to prevent future injuries.

  • Surgery

Surgery may be necessary to reconstruct or repair the damaged knee in case of severe injuries. However, it should only be required in cases of complete raptures or severe tears.

Why Physical Therapy for Soft Tissue Knee Injuries?

A doctor assisting the patient during knee exercise

Physical therapy is often the preferred treatment option for soft tissue knee injuries and for a good reason. For starters, physical therapy can help address the underlying causes of the damage and its acute symptoms. Moreover, your doctor of physical therapy will design a customized physical therapy treatment plan tailored to your unique injury and symptoms. Your plan may include exercises to strengthen and improve the affected area’s flexibility and range of motion. Also, it may involve manual therapy techniques to promote healing and alleviate pain.

If you suspect you have a soft tissue knee injury, don’t hesitate to contact our Chicago physical therapists to determine the appropriate treatment plan.