Radiotherapeutic normal tissue injury can be viewed as two simultaneously ongoing and interacting processes. The first has many features in common with the healing of traumatic wounds. The second is a set of transient or permanent alterations of cellular and extracellular components within the irradiated volume. In contrast to physical trauma, fractionated radiation therapy produces a series of repeated insults to tissues that undergo significant changes during the course of radiotherapy. Normal tissue responses are also influenced by rate of dose accumulation and other factors that relate to the radiation therapy schedule. This article reviews the principles of organised normal tissue responses during and after radiation therapy, the effect of radiation therapy on these responses, as well as some of the mechanisms underlying the development of recognisable injury. Important clinical implications relevant to these processes are also discussed.