Whether you’re a weekend warrior or an avid athlete, there’s a good chance that you will experience an exercise-related injury at some point. You may feel like your only option is to wrap it up and push through, or take pain meds and live with the side effects that come with them. Thankfully, there are options that can give you fast relief and speed healing. Here are five ways to get relief and heal faster without pain medication.

1. R.I.C.E.

Sometimes it’s the simplest advice that’s the hardest to follow. We’ve all been told that we should rest a workout-related injury, ice it for 10-20 minutes every two hours, put on a compression bandage, and keep it elevated, but few of us take the time to do it. That’s a big mistake, especially in the first 24 hours after an injury. Remember the acronym, “R.I.C.E.,” and follow it as soon as you realize you’re injured. Not only will this technique provide some much-needed relief for the pain, but it will also speed up the healing process.

2. Heat

Temperature can have a significant impact on the healing process. Use ice during the first 24 hours or so after the injury to get the swelling under control, then switch to heat. The heat will increase blood flow to the area, which speeds healing and helps the muscles and tendons to relax, giving you some natural relief for the pain.

3. Yoga

Stretching is crucial to the healing process. The last thing you want is for your muscles to become tight and uncomfortable while you heal. That can slow down your recovery and make things all the more difficult when you head back to the gym. Yoga is perfect for stretching injured muscles and ligaments in a controlled way. According to this study, yoga can actually reduce the need for pain medication by 50%, as long as you stick to gentle exercises and perform them properly.

4. Acupuncture

Acupuncture is extremely useful for treating many types of pain and for helping workout injuries heal faster. In fact, many professional sports teams have a dedicated acupuncturist on staff because using acupuncture for injury pain and faster healing is so effective. Incorporating acupuncture with yoga and conventional treatments can help your muscle, joint, ligament injuries can get you back in the gym much more quickly.

Acupuncture is effective in relieving the following workout-related injuries:

  • Shin splints
  • Tendinitis
  • Joint injuries
  • Sprains and strains
  • Bursitis
  • Plantar fasciitis
  • Runner’s Knee

The number of treatments needed will vary depending on the severity of your injury. However, many patients do notice some improvement in their pain after only one treatment, and most notice a significant improvement after 2-3 treatments. If your injury is severe enough to require surgery, acupuncture can speed the healing process afterward as well.

5. Increase Your Protein Intake

When you work out, you are working your muscles and straining them, causing intentional “injury” that heals itself and builds muscle mass. Bodybuilders eat a ton of protein because that’s what your muscles are made of. The added protein helps the body heal and build more muscle.

Protein can help to heal a workout-related injury in much the same way. The muscle or ligament has been damaged, and it needs protein to range and rebuild tissues. Focus on eating plenty of lean protein while you recover. Be sure to include plenty of fresh veggies and fruits for added nutrition that can help speed healing as well.

Final Thoughts

If you work out regularly, sitting at home while you wait for a workout injury to heal can seem like torture, but resting really is super important. Following the advice of your doctor and following our tips for natural healing and pain relief will get you back in the gym sooner and help to prevent the injury from recurring.