Regularly active people don’t often take well to being put on the sidelines while recovering from a sports injury. Treatment is the first step to getting moving again, but how long do you need to wait before you can start exercising safely again, and is there anything you do to help speed your recovery along?

Recovery Will Depend on the Injury and the Treatment

Not all sports injuries are the same, and likewise, the path to recovery will be different for every patient. A relatively minor injury, like an ankle sprain, will have a shorter recovery period than treatment for a degenerative spinal condition.

Here are a few common sports-related injuries and their typical treatment and recovery plans.

Strains and Pulled Muscles

Muscle strains and pulls are prevalent in sports that involve lots of running, jumping, or quick movements. The pain experienced from these injuries can vary, from mild to excruciating. Treatment will often include a combination of RICE – rest, ice, compression, and elevation – but many also include physiotherapy if the injury is severe.

A pulled muscle can take several weeks to heal fully. However, it may be possible to resume some light activity after a few weeks with rehabilitative physiotherapy treatment. The best defense against pulled muscles is regular pre and post-activity stretching.

Lower Back Injuries

Regardless of the sport you play, your spinal column often bears the brunt of the activity. Upper or lower back pain can make it difficult to perform even regular activity, let alone patriciate in any sports.

Treatment for your injury will depend on your specific condition; sprains and strains are often treated with RICE, and you may be back to exercising within days. Herniated or bulging discs affect the cushioning between the spinal vertebrae; it can be extremely painful and severely limit mobility. Physiotherapy is the most common treatment for this type of sports injury, although surgery may be required in some instances.

Depending on your condition and factors such as weight, fitness level, and age, recovery from back injuries could take days, weeks, or months. The best way to speed up your recovery is a personalized physiotherapy plan.

Knee Injuries

Injury or tears of the ACL, a major ligament found in the knee, are frequent in individuals who participate in sports that involve a lot of stop-and-go movement, like soccer or skiing. Knee and ACL injuries can be severe, some requiring surgery and lengthy rehabilitation to fully recover from.

For minor ACL sprains, immediate treatment might involve icing, anti-inflammatories, and possibly physiotherapy to help strengthen the muscles around your knee. If you’ve experienced an ACL tear, full recovery could take several months and may require surgery to repair or replace the tissue, in addition to several weeks or more of physiotherapy.

Tennis Elbow

Not just for tennis players, tennis elbow can impact anyone who needs to perform regular, repetitive motions with their arm. People who play golf frequently suffer from tennis elbow, but it can also affect people who work at a computer or play musical instruments.

Recovery times will vary, but the average is a few months. Treatment will typically include icing, physiotherapy to strengthen and stretch muscles, and often some sort of support or elbow brace to prevent further injury.