By Gemma Seager |
Whatever your sport, it’s likely that at some point you’ve had an unexplained pain that’s come, worried you, then gone as quickly as it started.
Niggling pains are common in sports like running that involve a lot of repetitive movements and high impact, and many of them can be attributed to a sudden change in training. When you first start out your body will need to adapt to the demands placed on it. Later on in training you might find that an increase in mileage, adding in more demanding speedwork sessions, or even just trying to pick up where you left off after a holiday starts a few grumblings in your joints and muscles.
There tend to be 2 different camps when it comes to the arrival of a dreaded niggle. Whether it’s a twingy hip flexor, an aching knee, or a pain in your shins some people will scoff at the thought of any injury that doesn’t actually involve a visibly broken bone and refuse to change their training schedule one little bit, while others will ask Dr Google, conclude they need surgery, and cower at home on the sofa with an ice pack until all trace of pain has disappeared.
So what’s the best way to deal with those niggles and how do you tell the difference between a niggling pain you can run through, and one that needs serious attention and professional help?
#1 Listen To Your Body
People say this a lot, but what does it actually mean? It can be incredibly hard to separate out what your body is telling you from what your over-cautious or over-keen mind is saying. Try to put aside your fear of injury and how much you want to keep training and really assess the severity and consistency of a pain.
Does it keep hurting after you stop exercising? Does it hurt even when you haven’t worked out for days? Is it affecting your normal range of movement, for instance making you limp, or causing pain when you kneel?
Did it come on suddenly and make you wince or catch your breath? All of these are probably signs you should take whatever it is a little more seriously, take some proper rest and maybe seek professional help.
#2 Take A Break or Adapt Your Training
If it hurts before you even start working out it’s probably not going to get better when you start pounding the pavements. Ask yourself, will it really matter if you skip one training session, or even just move it on a day? A day off now could save you 3 weeks off in future.
If you can’t bring yourself to take a day off, or the pain is only when you start exercising, or starts part way through, then consider rearranging your training plan.
Swapping a run for Yoga or Pilates might actually help improve a niggling pain, or you could swap out your tough speedwork session for a shorter easy run that doesn’t exacerbate the problem. Whatever you do keep listening to your body and if the pain gets worse, stop.
#3 Research Self-Help Techniques
Try and avoid working yourself up into a panic and leaping to the worst possible conclusion, but the Internet is a mine of information on common injuries and how to treat them. If you have a niggle then researching what it could be, and potential self treatments, could save you a world of pain later on.
There are all sorts of physiotherapy sites out there that can help you with a bit of self diagnosis and guide you towards whether you need to see a professional or not. They can also offer you advice on stretching, foam rolling and taping techniques that might help support your niggling pains until they pass.
#4 Work On Your Strength
Sometimes those niggles are because your body just isn’t strong enough yet for the demands you are placing on it. If you’ve recently stepped up your mileage or intensity then you can help your body adapt BEFORE those niggles start by including strength training in your program.
Working on glute and core strength is vital to avoiding a lot of common niggles which stem from muscle instability.
#5 Seek Professional Help
Even if the pain never gets any worse, if you’ve been foam rolling, stretching, taping and working on your strength and it doesn’t get any better, then you need to consult a professional.
Consulting your GP is a good start, but if you’re determined to keep training then seeing a specialised Sports Therapist or Physio is even better.
Someone who is used to dealing with sports people understands how keen you are to keep training, and is better placed to offer you advice on how your injury impacts your sport, whether you can train through it and how you can prevent it happening again.
Take Home Message
Remember, any pain while exercising is worth taking seriously.
Never ignore what your body is telling you, but with proper support and treatment you can minimise impact on your training schedule and help reduce the potential for full blown injury!