• It’s just a niggle…

  • It’s just a niggle, right? Just run it off and harden up… right?

    So often we see patients with calf or hamstrings strains, or even neck pain saying that they felt a bit of a niggle or “tightness” days or weeks before they got injured. Our habit of relying on the ”wait and see” approach frequently gets us into trouble.

    A niggle is, by definition, something that causes “slight but persistent annoyance, discomfort, or anxiety”. They are like a wee warning light that pops up on the dash of your car, you can keep going right, but how far and how hard should you push it? Maybe if you popped into a mechanic they could sort the issue quick as anything – far easier than breaking down right??

    And, this isn’t just some silly simile to get you to go to physio more, there is actual research that backs me up!

    A research study looked into the impact of “niggles” in football players across 25 different teams across 10 different clubs on injury rate. They found there is an up to six-fold increase in the risk of injury when a footballer reports a physical complaint in the prior week.

    That is a massive amount higher risk of injury! In the players without any niggles there was a 6-9% risk of injury, which is already quite high being at least 6 of every 100 players injured each week, let alone those carrying niggles have up to 6 times greater likelihood of injury!

    Niggles are your bodies way of telling something is a bit stressed, fatigued and overloaded. It may not mean you need to sit out the week but it may mean you need to decrease training load, have relative rest or see a physio to address the issue as we would rather treat the niggle that a full blown injury.

    It also shows how important it is to listen to how you are feeling and communicate to your coaches any niggles you have as they would also rather you not get an injury – this is why most professional teams now have their players fill out wellness questionnaires everyday now to keep on top of how they are feeling as someone’s pain levels, stress, sleep patterns and mood actually have a huge effect on risk of injury and performance – and that’s not just for athletes.

    Listen to your body. It knows best.