Anyone who’s ever sprained an ankle while hiking, or suffered a wrenched back during a game, knows that half the agony comes from wondering if you’ll ever be able to get back to your fitness or sports routine. The key to getting “back in the game” is to be diligent about following the recommended recovery steps.

First Moves

Not all sprains or strains require medical care. But doctors advise that if you can’t put any weight on an injured leg, have trouble breathing, can’t  move without intense discomfort, or have pain that gets progressively worse, you should seek professional help.

Beyond that, most sports injuries not involving broken bones should be initially treated with a course of RICE: Rest, Ice, Compression (bandaging), and Elevation of the injured body part.

Recovery Spa Style!

Massage therapists are trained to treat sports injuries based on the nature and location of the injury. Whether you seek a massage therapist at a spa or as part of your physical therapy, don’t lose out on this healing tool simply because of a misguided fear of “pampering your injury.”

Even at its most basic, massage is medicinal because it helps increase your circulation, delivering oxygen and vital nutrients to injured tissue. Different types of therapeutic sports massage are often combined to address aches and pains, tissue recovery, and loss of range of motion.

Basic Swedish massage is considered an effective, body-wide healing treatment. Trigger-point massage is great for strained muscles and muscle spasms, and lymphatic or deep tissue massage encourages all-over circulation. Compression massage softens up tensed-up muscles. Finally, cross-fiber massage stretches muscles and tissues to increase flexibility, which prevents re-injury.

Returning to Your Fitness Routine

As you’re able to move around without discomfort, begin some low-key stretching, as well as some mild cardio, such as taking a walk. If you’re going to physical therapy, make sure that you don’t neglect your uninjured limbs even as you’re building strength and flexibility for the “bad” limb.

On your own, you can move on to some light resistance training with hand weights or resistance bands, and add in a bit of brisk walking, swimming or biking, depending on your injury and comfort levels.