We often hear runners use niggle injury or a niggle to describe soreness or discomfort that they are feeling. And although this term might be thrown around quite frequently, it can be difficult to differentiate between a niggle and an injury in our own training.
What is a niggle injury?
In order to properly self-diagnose, it’s important to understand the niggle injury meaning. A niggle is a term used to describe soreness, tightness or discomfort that occurs in a specific location.
This discomfort might reoccur with every run, but never progress to the point of true pain. Niggles usually require little to no extra effort to run through, but can be incredibly frustrating.
The key to determining that you have a niggle injury is if you’re feeling some discomfort, but are still able to continue running. You might be annoyed, but the discomfort has never progressed to a level of pain that influences your ability to run.
Should you run with a niggle injury?
Just about every runner has run with a niggle at some point during their training. Whether it’s a pulled muscle, lingering tightness, joint pain or something else, niggles can often be controlled in a way that makes it safe to run.
Most runners can safely continue running with niggles, but some extra effort is usually required. KT tape, braces, and compression are common tools used to prevent discomfort from a niggle. These types of accessories help take pressure off certain areas or reduce tightness that might be occurring during a run.
A few runners choose to take time off or lighten their training when they experience a niggle injury. Rather than risking the niggle turning into something more serious, they take some time off to focus on recovery and healing the niggle.
If you choose to continue running with a niggle injury, you’ll need to be able to tell if the niggle progresses to a full-blown injury.
Do niggles lead to more serious injuries?
In many cases, niggles don’t progress to serious injuries. Usually, the soreness, stiffness or discomfort fades as time passes and the body heals naturally.
However, in some cases, a niggle does progress to a full-blown injury. If you begin to notice increasing discomfort while you continue with a regular training load, it might be a sign that your niggle is becoming more serious.
Listening to your body and being aware of your discomfort is key to managing niggles. Be aware of any signals your body may be sending, and take time off if your discomfort progresses to pain.
How to Tell If It’s a Niggle or an Injury
When you’re battling a niggle, it’s important to know how to tell if it progresses to a more serious injury. Here are three differences between a niggle and an injury.
Discomfort vs. Pain
The easiest way to tell whether you’re dealing with a simple niggle injury or a serious injury is whether you are experiencing mild discomfort or intense pain. Niggles usually cause some discomfort, tightness or soreness in a specific area.
As you run with a niggle, you’ll likely feel slight discomfort, but be able to continue on without much else. On the other hand, an injury will likely feel so painful that you are forced to either change your form, utilize some extra support, or stop running altogether.
Running Comfortably vs. Sidelined
Just as above, if you’re dealing with a niggle injury, you’ll nearly always be able to run through it. The discomfort might be slightly annoying, but you’ll often forget about it as you continue further into your run.
When dealing with a true injury, most runners find that they are unable to continue running. The pain often escalates to a point that they are forced to take time off to heal – whether they like it or not.
Maintain Running Form vs. Forced Changes
When dealing with running niggles, you can usually continue training without any adjustments to your plan or form. The soreness or tightness might cause some annoyance, but you’ll be able to run through them at your normal pace with usual form.
On the other hand, if you attempt to continue running with a serious injury, you’ll probably only be able to do so by making changes to your form. You might need to limp, adjust your stride or slow your pace. If you find yourself needing to make adjustments due to pain, it’s probably a sign that your niggle has progressed to true injury.
6 Tips to Fix a Niggle Injury
Nearly every runner faces a niggle at some point during training. When the time comes, you’ll want to know how to fix and rid the niggle before it progresses to anything more serious. Here are 6 simple ways to ensure your niggle injury goes away.
Use KT tape or compression
One popular way to reduce the discomfort caused by niggles is to use KT tape, support bands or compression. These methods don’t alter your form or running stride, but are able to provide support to specific areas or muscles.
If you’re experiencing soreness, compression socks or sleeves will promote blood flow and help reduce the tightness. Achy joints can often be supported with specific bands designed for the area, while muscle or tendon strain can be eased with the use of KT tape.
Incorporate a warm up
Most niggles occur due to tension or soreness, which can both be reduced with a warm up. Completing a few dynamic warm up exercises before you begin running will help loosen things up to help reduce and delay the onset of tension.
Another way to help reduce soreness or tightness is to prioritize stretching during training. Making the time to stretch after a run and on rest days will help loosen any tight spots and encourage blood flow to the muscles. You’ll help reduce the buildup of lactic acid and potentially speed up the recovery from your niggle injury.
Ice the area
If you’re experiencing a niggle in one isolated area, something that might help is ice. Ice helps reduce swelling that might occur with an injury and can even speed up the healing process. Taking the time to rest and ice the area where you are experiencing discomfort can help your body heal on its own.
Related: Ice Bath Recovery Basics for Runners
Lower the intensity
While it may still be possible to run with a niggle injury, it might not always be pleasant. If you’re struggling with a niggle that just won’t go away, it might help to lower the intensity of your training.
Cutting back your mileage or speed for just a few days or week might be all it takes to heal the niggle. Providing your body with some extra time and energy to focus on healing your niggle injury might be all it takes to speed up the process.
Be aware of the issue
Most importantly, if you’re dealing with a niggle, you want to always be aware of the issue. Take note of the discomfort you experience at the start of a run and pay attention any time it seems to get worse.
Our bodies have a wonderful way of healing themselves, but sometimes we need to back off in order for them to do so. If you’re able to run through a niggle, give yourself a little grace. Ease off if needed and remember that it’s always better to take a day or two off now than weeks or months off if it becomes more serious.