When a patient comes into the office seeking a solution to an episode of back or neck pain, I always ask about previous episodes. Often there is denial from the patient when I ask them if they have had any trouble in their back or neck before. “Oh no, I’ve been fine”, they reply. After a few more probing questions about their past, “ Well, just normal _______. “. You can fill in the blank with: stiffness, tightness, pulled muscles, tweaks, twinges, niggles, cricks, stiff back and hips and/or neck and shoulders. Further questioning reveals the patient may go for massage sessions regularly, all while denying they have any back or neck trouble!
Let me say clearly that after 40 years of experience, occasional stiffness, pulled back muscles, tightness, tweaks, twinges and niggles in your back or neck are not normal. Waking up with a stiff back or a crick in your neck is not normal. Your tight neck, shoulders, back and hips may be very common in our society, but that doesn’t make them normal.
And, just because these little irritants feel better after a while doesn’t mean they’ve gone away either.
Frequently, a few office visits later, the patient admits to having had a few twinges of back or neck pain, some persistent stiffness in their back or neck or the occasional niggle in the previous 1 – 3 months that they ignored before the big episode occurs. In my experience, this happens up to 90% of the time.
There are often early warning signs of a painful and disabling back or neck problem.
If I’ve just described your situation, you should be taking more action to investigate the cause and seek a solution before things get out of hand. This is one example in life when maybe you should sweat the small stuff, because in the world of back and neck pain, without taking care of the small stuff, big stuff usually follows.
Those little episodes or niggles are telling you something. Don’t discount them, massage them or wait them out. Get them attended to with a proper and thorough examination and treatment plan. The progression of back and neck trouble is accumulative. Your previous episodes and recurring niggles can result in a significant flare up of pain and disability. And the longer your suffer from your “normal” stiffness, twinges and neck cricks, the longer and harder it will be to find a solution to the underlying cause and the longer and more costly it will be to get you moving and feeling better again.
So yes, those occasional nagging little symptoms in your back or neck may be a cause for concern. Give us a call, and we’ll help you sort out these “normal” niggles before they catch up with you.