When specific causes of symptoms aren’t known, doctors sometimes refer to conditions simply by naming the symptoms. Such is the case for so-called “soft tissue pain.” The term soft tissue pain simply refers to discomfort somewhere in the interconnected system of muscles, tendons, and ligaments, as opposed to the bones, and says nothing about the particular cause.
The most commonly used conventional treatments for soft tissue pain consist primarily of drugs that relieve pain and/or inflammation in general, such as ibuprofen and acetaminophen, as well as muscle relaxants. Physical therapy methods are commonly recommended for selected forms of soft tissue pain, but there is little to no reliable scientific evidence that they help. 1–511-14 Other methods, such as therapeutic exercises, may help, but most reported studies are significantly flawed by the lack of a credible placebo treatment. (For why this is important, see Why Does This Database Rely on Double-blind Studies? )
A similar lack of reliable evidence exists regarding other non-surgical, non-drug methods used to control soft tissue pain, such as injection therapy, radiofrequency denervation, and transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS). 6–10
Surgery may be useful for certain selected forms of soft tissue pain, although again the supporting research evidence is generally very incomplete.
Natural treatments for the following forms of soft tissue pain are discussed in their own articles:
Alternative therapies that may be useful for soft tissue pain in general include acupuncture , biofeedback , chiropractic , hypnosis , magnet therapy , massage , prolotherapy , and relaxation therapy .
13. Bisset L, Paungmali A, Vicenzino B et al. A systematic review and meta-analysis of clinical trials on physical interventions for lateral epicondylalgia. Br J Sports Med . 2005;39:411-22; discussion 411-22.
Last reviewed September 2014 by EBSCO CAM Review Board
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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