Skip to main content.

Sports Injury? Check Out 5 Non-Surgical Treatments That Offer Quicker Recoveries

Posted March 13, 2023 by Zachary Vallandingham, D.O.

woman holding knee in pain while on a run

A sports injury can be scary, especially if you're facing surgery that could keep you sidelined for weeks, if not months.

Fortunately, surgery isn't always the best option when you suffer an injury from playing a sport, exercising, or participating in recreational activities. A wide range of non-surgical treatments are available today that effectively treat muscle pain, joint pain, and lack of mobility. 

A sports injury encompasses the musculoskeletal system, including bones, muscles, joints, tendons, and soft tissues. Non-surgical treatments are great for back pain, foot pain, joint and ligament injuries, muscle pulls, tendon strains, and overuse injuries such as stress fractures, shin splints, and tendinitis.

If you're suffering a sports injury, your provider will likely perform a comprehensive evaluation and recommend a treatment plan based on the extent of your injury, medical history, and pain. 

Summa Health highlights 5 common non-surgical treatments for injuries related to sports that are helping athletes—and non-athletes—recover faster and without surgery to get them back in the game. In many cases, your physician may recommend more than one treatment option.


In some cases, resting the area is the best medicine to allow the injury to heal on its own. Many providers recommend the RICE treatment, which stands for rest, ice, compression, and elevation. 

Anti-inflammatory medications

Different oral medicines can be used to decrease pain. They can include non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as aspirin and ibuprofen. Nerve pain medications may also help decrease pain while the injury heals. 


Several types of injections providers use to treat injuries, ranging from tennis elbow to plantar fasciitis to arthritis.

  • Steroid injections can be used to reduce swelling, pain, and stiffness. They are often injected into joints and can take five to seven days to provide relief.
  • Viscosupplementation injections involve injecting hyaluronic acid, a natural substance found in joint fluid, into your injured or arthritic joint. This treatment helps relieve pain and inflammation.
  • Platelet-rich Plasma (PRP) injections take advantage of your blood's healing factors. Your blood is drawn and then separated using a specialized machine. The platelet-rich plasma portion is then injected using ultrasound guidance into the injured area to speed healing.
  • Stem-cell injections involve ultrasound-guided injections of your own stem cells (regenerative cells). The stem cells are typically harvested from your bone marrow or fatty tissue. These stem cells are then injected into the injured or arthritic joint to promote healing.


Braces, boots, or casts can be used to restrict motion to allow an injured area to heal. These devices are used to support and protect broken bones or torn ligaments while healing.

Physical therapy

Physical therapists use specific and targeted exercises to stimulate healing and restore strength and range of motion to the muscles, soft tissues, and joints that suffered damage due to your injury. Physical therapists will create a personalized exercise plan that will not only help you heal faster but also reduce your risk of reinjury in the future.

The good news is you can typically start many of these non-surgical treatments right away. Some provide quick relief, while others can take several weeks for maximum effect. If you don't find relief from these treatments, surgery may be necessary to get you back in the game.

About the Author

Zachary Vallandingham, D.O.

Vitality eNews Sign Up

Receive the Summa Health eNewsletter for the latest health tips, advice and updates.

Related Blogs

View all Flourish Blogs

Torn Rotator Cuff? Try These 4 Non-Surgical Treatments That Really Work

Do you feel a dull ache deep in your shoulder that worsens at night or with particular arm movements? Do you have weakness when lifting or rotating your arm above your head? If you answered yes to either of these questions, you might be dealing with a torn rotator cuff.

The rotator cuff is a series of muscles and tendons that keeps the shoulder joint stable, while allowing the arm to rotate. Rotator cuff injuries are very common and increase with age. Injury, degeneration or…

Putting Your Best Foot Forward This Summer

As the weather gets warmer, more and more people will be outside participating in a range of summer activities, from sports to hikes and even gardening. While this is certainly good for your health, summer can also lead to a number of foot and ankle injuries.

Ankle Sprains

A sprained ankle occurs when the ankle rolls towards the outside of the foot, most often during physical activity, and it is one of the most common foot injuries. While a mild sprain is often nothing to…

Treatment Options for a Lumbar Herniated Disc [Podcast]

Pain and symptoms from a spinal lumbar herniated disc can be easily mistaken by patients. Summa Health neurosurgeon Dr. Paul Hartzfeld answers some of the most commonly asked questions about treatment for lumbar herniated disc.

5 Ways to Reduce Joint Pain and Stiffness This Winter Season

Do frigid temperatures cause slow, achy joints that make it difficult for you to get moving? It’s not just your imagination. People living with joint pain related to conditions, such as: arthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, lupus or fibromyalgia, often report when temperatures drop, their joint pain acts up. 

It’s true, cold weather causes muscles to tense, which can lead to less mobility and flexibility in the joints. Some studies also associate joint pain with…

How Strong Are Your Bones? Get the Facts on Osteoporosis

How strong are your bones? You may have no idea until you break one doing some mundane activity, such as bumping into furniture, coughing or sneezing.

Osteoporosisis a bone disease that occurs when your body breaks down more bone than it creates. Bone is living tissue that is constantly broken down and replaced. The disease causes your bones to become weak and brittle, and breaking a bone doing seemingly ordinary activities is typically the first sign of osteoporosis.…

Total Joint Replacement Trends: Technology Advances Are Increasing Surgical Rates and Patient Satisfaction

Do you have a bad hip? Achy knees? If you’re suffering from chronic joint pain, a total joint replacement can provide you with a better quality of life that includes less pain, improved motion and strength that you require for an active lifestyle.

Cartilage in joints naturally protects the bones from rubbing together. But when cartilage deteriorates due to injury, aging or disease, such as arthritis or obesity, bones begin rubbing together while in motion. This results…

Shoulder Pain: Causes, Injuries, and Treatment [Podcast]

Dr. Ryan Urchek gives an overview of shoulder pain from common causes, injuries, and treatment options.

An Overview of Osteoporosis: Prevention to Treatment [Podcast]

Natalie Hiltbrand, an Osteoporosis Specialist at Summa Health, leads a discussion on osteoporosis treatment, as well as prevention.

Pelvic health 101: 6 common vulvar disorders

When women experience pain or discomfort in their pelvic region, many times their first thought is the dreaded yeast infection. That’s not a surprise because most women — as many as 75 percent — will be diagnosed at least once with a vaginal yeast infection during their lifetimes.

However, there are vulvar disorders other than yeast —  that can cause similar symptoms, including redness and swelling, intense itching, discolored discharge, blisters…

Addressing Common Pelvic Health Issues [Podcast]

Dr. Megan Cesta and senior physical therapist Amy Senn discuss common pelvic health issues women may experience.

Pain Relief After Total Joint Replacement Surgery: Reducing the Need for Narcotics and Opioids [Podcast]

Healthy VitalsDr. Kiel Pfefferle discusses how Summa Health is moving away from opioids and narcotics as the primary pain relief after joint replacement surgery.

FAQ: Partial knee replacement surgery

If you’re like one in five Americans, you’ll eventually develop arthritis of the knee. This means the cartilage that cushions the bones of your knee begins to degrade, causing those bones to painfully rub together. When that pain becomes too much or restricts activities you once enjoyed, it’s time to talk to your doctor about treatment, including knee replacement surgery.

What’s the difference between a partial and a total knee replacement?


Does Weather Affect Joint Pain?

Have you ever heard from someone that they can predict when a storm is coming because their joints hurt? It’s pretty common for people to blame joint pain flare-ups on changes on the weather, but scientists and doctors have yet to pinpoint exactly what it is about cold, rainy, or humid weather that makes joints stiff and achy.

Leading Theories

While joint pain isn’t directly correlated with dropping temperatures, the thought is that the change in barometric pressure…

Plantar Fasciitis – It’s Not Just For Runners

If you are a runner, chances are you’ve heard of plantar fasciitis. It’s one of the most common causes of heel pain. However, any job or activity where you are on your feet for long periods of time can put you at risk as well.

An introduction to plantar fasciitis

A thick band of tissue - plantar fascia - connects your heel bone to your toes. This tissue acts as a shock-absorber on the feet. If tension and stress start to cause small tears, this ribbon-like tissue…

Osteoporosis: Don't Be Broken

6 Proactive Simple Steps You Can Take

Osteoporosis is a bone disease in which the bones become weak and brittle. Osteoporosis is a disease in which there is an increased risk of fracturing a bone from a non-traumatic fall or even simple actions such as sneezing.

According to the National Osteoporosis Foundation, 54 million Americans have osteoporosis or low bone mass. Studies also show that 50% of women and 25% of men around age 50 are at risk for breaking a bone secondary to…


Options to Request an Appointment

If your situation is an emergency, call 911.