How do you know if you’re dealing with a niggle or an injury? Musculoskeletal pain is a common experience. Deciphering when to seek care and when to take a wait-and-see approach can be difficult. Let’s explore the cues that signal the need for professional care and when it’s practical to give your body time to heal itself.

When to wait-and-see…

  1. You have mild discomfort or occasional muscle soreness following physical activity that lasts only a short time (less than 2 days)
  2. The onset of your symptoms is gradual and not accompanied by significant pain, functional limitation, or distress
  3. Your symptoms improve with rest and by modifying your activity levels

In these scenarios it may be appropriate to monitor the situation. In many cases, minor musculoskeletal pain is resolved with adequate rest, gentle movement and self-care measures (PEACE & LOVE).

  1. If you’ve experienced similar episodes of musculoskeletal pain in the past and were able to manage them effectively with self-care strategies.

It may be appropriate to manage this episode of pain in the past as you have done before. If these ‘niggles’ become repetitive or recurrent and how you used to manage them is no longer working, you should seek care. These ‘niggles’ could be an indication that something you are doing is causing tissue damage and you need to revise your behaviours (load vs capacity). For example, reduce your training load, add variety to your exercise regime, address your sleep patterns and quality etc.

When to seek care…

  1. Your pain is severe, persistent, getting worse over time, or interfering with your daily activities. For example, pain that changes the way you walk, move, sleep or ability to focus on school or work.
  2. Your range of motion has become limited, especially if movement is accompanied by pain or stiffness. For example, you are unable to lift your arm over shoulder height to get dressed or wash your hair etc You’re unable to turn your neck to check the blind spot while driving.
  3. You’ve sustained a recent traumatic injury, such as a sprain or strain, especially if your injury has excessive swelling or bruising
  4. Your pain is chronic or injuries recurrent

In these scenarios, it may be appropriate to stop, reduce or modify activity until the root cause is identified by a health professional. Chiropractic care can provide drug-free pain relief, prevent further damage, enhance quality of life and promote faster recovery. If your pain is chronic, we can help to proactively manage your pain and reduce flare-ups. If your pain or injuries are recurrent, we can help modify your lifestyle and behaviours to reduce recurrence.

Making the right call …

A balanced approach that prioritises your needs and promotes informed decision-making is key to managing musculoskeletal pain effectively.

  • Assess the Severity: Evaluate the intensity, duration, and impact of the pain on daily activities. Severe or debilitating pain may warrant immediate professional attention.
  • Consider Underlying Factors: Reflect on factors such as previous injuries, medical history, and lifestyle habits that may influence the onset and progression of your pain.
  • Listen to Your Body: Pay attention to your body’s signals. If the pain persists or worsens despite self-care efforts, seeking professional evaluation becomes sensible.
  • Cost and time limitations may need to be considered. Waiting to see if the pain improves may be a short-term more economical and convenient option, however if your pain becomes chronic or worse seeking care early could be the more economical and convenient option. While early intervention can offer relief and expedite recovery, your body’s healing processes should not be underestimated!
  • Relying too heavily on chiropractic care for any instance of musculoskeletal pain can foster dependency. As well as detracting from your confidence in your body’s ability to heal itself. Monitoring your situation and gauging the severity and persistence of your pain before turning to care can be appropriate.

In summary, the decision to seek chiropractic care for musculoskeletal pain is individual. It should be based on the severity, duration, and impact of symptoms. As well as factors such as medical history and previous treatment outcomes. It’s essential to listen to your body, use discretion, and seek professional guidance when needed.