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How To Tell If You Have Soft Tissue Damage After a Car Accident

Soft tissue injuries are any injuries to the body’s soft tissues or connective tissues. The most common symptoms of a soft tissue injury caused by an accident include soreness, swelling, discoloration, and a limited range of motion that manifests within 24 to 48 hours after the crash.

Do not dismiss any aches and pains that you may have after an accident, even if you think they are minor. The pain caused by soft tissue injuries can significantly impact your daily life, so make sure to visit a medical professional as soon as possible for treatment!

Our accident care team at Impact Medical Sun City Center explores some ways to tell if you have soft tissue damage after an accident.

What Are Soft Tissue Injuries?

Soft tissue injuries refer to damage to the soft tissues of the body like the muscles or connective tissue like tendons and ligaments.

Both soft and connective tissue is made up of individual fibers, and when injured, these fibers stretch, tear, and become inflamed.

Soft tissue injuries occur when the body suffers trauma, such as blunt force sustained during a car accident. This kind of damage is common in car accidents, specifically because the force of the impact is often placed on the occupants inside the vehicle.

The exerted forces can violently jostle accident victims across the vehicle, even in minor accidents. This force can stretch the tissue beyond its normal range of motion, causing partial or complete tears in the tissue fibers. It can also damage blood cells within the tissue, causing contusions or bruising.

The Symptoms of Soft Tissue Injuries

The main symptom of any soft tissue injury will be pain around the injured part of the body. The pain might start mild and worsen over the first 48 hours following the injury.

Other symptoms include:

  • A knot or lump on or around the injury site
  • Inability to put weight on the area
  • Instability at the affected joint
  • Muscle cramping or spasms
  • Muscle weakness
  • Swelling or bruising

The Most Common Soft Tissue Injuries Sustained in Car Accidents

The soft tissues of the body are much more vulnerable to damage than harder structures in the body, like your bones. This can explain why soft tissue injuries are among the most common car accident injuries.

The most common soft tissue injuries include:


Soft tissue sprains affect a type of connective tissue called ligaments. Ligaments connect bones to joints and give your joints stability by controlling their movement. Sprains occur when a ligament suffers sudden trauma and forces the tissue out of its normal range of motion.

Wrist sprains are a common cause of wrist pain after an accident, as many people grab the steering wheel to brace for impact.

Sprains are classified as either partial or complete tears. A partial tear can heal on its own within two to three weeks, but a complete tear may require surgery.

Common symptoms of a sprain include:

  • Swelling
  • Redness
  • Bruising
  • Limited range of motion


Soft tissue strains refer to any injury to the muscles and tendons. Like a sprain, soft tissue sprains occur when the tissue is pushed beyond its normal range of motion, resulting in a partial or complete tear.

Knee strains, also called “dashboard knee” is a common cause of knee pain after rear-ending accidents.

A tell-tale sign of a strain is muscle spasms, which happen when the soft tissue involuntarily expands and contracts to enhance blood flow.


Whiplash is the most common type of neck injury from car accidents. It occurs when the head rushes forward and then immediately snaps back, tearing several soft tissue fibers in the process.

Whiplash is also referred to as a cervical strain, but the back-and-forth motion can also damage ligaments and even neck joints.

Symptoms of whiplash include:

  • Sharp neck pain
  • Neck stiffness
  • Shoulder pain
  • Headaches

Depending on the severity of the injury, whiplash can cause a limited range of motion in the shoulders and neck. These injuries often require a neck brace for several weeks to help stabilize the soft tissues.

It is also important to note that whiplash injuries often cause delayed pain after an accident. Delayed pain symptoms typically begin 24 to 48 hours after the accident but can take over a week to fully develop.

Contusions or Bruises

Contusions, most commonly called bruises, are a collection of broken blood vessels under the skin’s surface. These injuries are caused by blunt trauma, such as slamming against the steering wheel, dashboard, or side window.

The most obvious sign of a contusion is skin discoloration (blue, purple, or green) and tenderness to the touch. Contusions are also common symptoms of sprains.

After Accident Care in Sun City Center

If you are experiencing any of the above injuries or symptoms after a car accident, come visit our compassionate team at Impact Medical Sun City Center. From primary care and chiropractic to physical therapy and pain management, our team is ready to help you heal.

Don’t wait. Call us to schedule an appointment today at (813) 938-5195!