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7 Alternative Therapies for Sports Injuries

7 Alternative Therapies for Sports Injuries

A lot of people participate in sports for various reasons. For some, it is a way of staying fit. For others, it is their passion. But sports come with inherent risks. From time to time, athletes suffer injuries that may require hospitalization. Today, however, there are other options for treatment. Is there available alternative therapy for sports injuries? Let’s find out here.

Top 10 Common Sports Injuries

What is Alternative Therapy for Sports Injuries

Often, when an athlete or active individual suffers from a simple injury, like sore muscles, they would resort to the ever-dependable PRICE method.

PRICE is short for

  • Protection: Protect the affected area from additional injury or trauma.
  • Rest: Reduce movement and avoid exercise. As much as possible, avoid bearing weight to the injured part.
  • Ice: Apply ice compress for 15 to 20 minutes every 2 to 3 hours. Don’t forget to protect the skin by wrapping a towel around the ice pack.
  • Compression: Use elastic compress to limit swelling.
  • Elevation: Raise the injured part above heart level whenever possible.

If this method alone does not work, there are prescription medications to help ease the pain and hasten healing.

However, if the injury is more serious, the athlete may be advised to get a few days of hospital stay. In some instances, the doctor may even suggest physical therapy for recovery.

However, Alternative therapy is quite different. It includes treatment options that are not considered “mainstream.” More than depending on medications, hospital stay, and physical therapy, the approach becomes more holistic. This means that therapy pays attention to the whole person instead of just treating the injury.

Why Go for Alternative Therapy for Sports Injuries?

An athlete may opt for alternative therapy for various reasons, including:

  • Dissatisfaction with the mainstream or conventional treatment. Many athletes find that mainstream treatment methods do not work for them.
  • Fear of incurring adverse reactions to medications.
  • Dislike in the one-size-fits-all kind of approach.

In contrast, alternative therapies consider the whole person. In other words, the treatment tries to accommodate the person’s experiences, and thus, it becomes “personalized.”

The following are some of the alternative therapies for sports injuries:


First used in ancient China, acupuncture works to “open up energy pathways.” Acupuncture experts believe that when a person is injured, the energy flow in the body is “blocked.” By inserting a needle in the area of injury, the flow of energy will return to normal.

In acupuncture:

  • The therapist uses a sterilized needle.
  • The needles come in various lengths and diameters.
  • The therapist may pull the needle quickly right after insertion or it may stay inserted for a few minutes. This, of course, depends on how the therapist believes you should be treated.

This alternative therapy is good for the following sports injuries:

  • Pain in the neck, knee, and lower back
  • Tennis elbow
  • Frozen shoulder
  • Plantar fasciitis
  • Piriformis syndrome
  • IT or Iliotibial band syndrome


Cryotherapy partially mimics the RICE method because it uses cooling ice packs. In this alternative therapy for sports injuries, the cooling ice pack (or other similar tools) is applied over the skin directly above the injured muscle.

This cold application helps:

  • Reduce muscle temperature, even temporarily
  • Induce vasoconstriction
  • Reduce pain

However, the effects of cryotherapy are quite controversial as human studies have shown little to no beneficial effects.

A Sprain or a Strain? Here’s How to Tell


Some people think that massage is purely for relaxation, but the truth is, it could also be used to treat some sports injuries.

An Indian Head Massage, for instance, works to massage the scalp, neck, and shoulders. It sprung from ancient Ayurvedic healing that believes in energy channels the same way acupuncture does.

When you massage the area, the energy pathways open up and blood flows freely, encouraging healing. The Indian head massage is good for athletes who suffer from:

Of course, there are other types of massage and the therapist may suggest a different kind depending on your injury and preference.


Cupping is another alternative therapy for sports injuries, particularly muscle soreness. Also called myofascial decompression, the therapist uses a glass or a medical-grade silicone cup, a cotton ball, and fire.

First, the therapist will light the cotton ball and place it inside the glass or cup. After removing the cotton balls, the glass will be inverted and placed on top of the affected or injured area. The heat inside the glass will “pull the impurities” out of the body.

In the 2016 Summer Olympics, swimming champion Michael Phelps used this method.

Chiropractic Adjustment

If you have seen a person “jolting” another person’s spinal joint, you have probably seen a chiropractor in action.

The chiropractic adjustment is a procedure wherein a trained chiropractor applies sudden and controlled force on the spinal joint. The goal is to alleviate the pain and “realign the vertebrae.”

However, the chiropractic adjustment is just a part of the chiropractic therapy. Typically, chiropractic therapy involves massage therapy, physical therapy, and spinal decompression.

It is good for:

  • Tennis elbow
  • Concussions
  • Bursitis
  • Runner’s knees
  • Plantar fasciitis
  • Torn ACL injuries

Flotation Therapy

From the word itself, flotation therapy involves “floating” to help the athlete rest. In this therapy, the patient will float in a 10-inch solution of Epsom salts, which is maintained at a particular temperature. The session typically lasts for 1 hour.

According to experts, flotation therapy:

  • Helps relieve stress and tension that comes together with the sports injury
  • Hastens recovery due to the relaxation it brings to the muscles
  • Increases blood flow and releases pressure from joints and muscles
  • Reduces pain and helps in conditions such as backache

alternative therapy for sports injuries

Yoga Therapy

Known for its ability to “stretch” the body, yoga focuses on different poses, breathing techniques, and meditation. This alternative therapy for sports injuries has the following benefits:

  • It increases the flexibility of muscles
  • Yoga reduces inflammation and therefore helps in relieving pains and aches
  • It relaxes both mind and body; that’s why it is also considered an activity that reduces stress
  • Yoga increases the athlete’s awareness of their bodies

Key Takeaways

Aside from medications, physical therapy, and hospitalization, an injured athlete has other options, such as acupuncture and chiropractic adjustment. However, please remember that any alternative therapy for sports injuries requires an expert. Athletes are highly discouraged to approach people who do not have any certification or license to perform a particular healing method.

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Written by Lorraine Bunag, R.N. Updated Jun 04
Medically reviewed by Mike-Kenneth Go Doratan, M.D.