Nagging Little Injuries: Why won’t they just go AWAY?

A nagging injury is injury pain that won’t go away, often caused by overuse injuries, repetitive motion injuries, or minor incidents that cause injury to tendons or muscles. In most cases, we like to call these nagging little injuries “niggles“: mild musculoskeletal issues such as tightness or soreness. Short-term pain is normal, but long-term pain doesn’t have to be.

You may have experienced those nagging little injuries that never go away, whether you hurt yourself exercising, on the field, or at your job. Have you ever wondered why the pain won’t stop, no matter what you try?

If you follow sports, and your favorite player picks up a hamstring or groin injury, think about your response to that: “Well crap, he’ll have that for the rest of the season!”

Logically speaking, the pain stems from the damaged tissue if an injury actually damaged the tissue. Acute pain can be beneficial for letting you know there is an issue. The short-term pain tells you to stop whatever activity you’re doing.

But for pain to persist after the tissue has healed doesn’t really make sense. Acute pain often turns into chronic pain under certain circumstances.

Click here to set up an appointment with us at Action Spine & Sports Medicine in Denver, CO — where we can help you with those nagging injuries.

Read below to learn more about pain receptors, neurosignatures, and the best treatments for nagging little injuries.

Why Some Injuries Don’t Stop Hurting

Some injuries don’t stop hurting because the original injury was never properly treated. The main two reasons for nagging pain [niggles] are (1) stuck pain receptors or (2) a painful neurosignature — both of which we will talk about in the next section.

Most injuries you get are overuse injuries or when joints extend past their normal range of motion.

A joint is a hinge where multiple bones come together. There are soft tissues/connective tissues around those bones, such as muscles, tendons, and ligaments.

Either way, some injuries don’t stop hurting because the initial injury was not properly treated. Over time, it has slowly, silently developed into a chronic issue that may be adversely affecting neighboring areas of the body.

What happens to your body when you get injured? When you get injured, your body forms blood clots in the injured area and begins acute inflammation, which is a good thing in the short-term. Pain receptors send signals to your brain to tell you something is wrong.

Neurosignatures vs. Stuck Pain Receptors

The main 2 reasons for nagging pain are:

  • Stuck pain receptors
  • Negative neurosignature

How pain works, put simply: A whole host of receptors identifies pain. Different receptors pick up various changes in your environment and trigger a response that sends a ”mayday” signal to the brain.

Suppose a receptor continuously sends the same signal over and over again. In that case, it can sometimes get “stuck” sending that signal even after the signal is no longer needed. It is a stuck pain receptor.

How the body interprets that signal is part two of how pain works. Dr. Ronald Melzack theorized that once the signal gets to the brain, it creates a neurosignature (also called the neuromatrix). How you perceive pain is linked to previous encounters with those stimuli, and much more.

Your neurosignature is created by all of the sensory experiences you have ever had.

So what does all this have to do with those nagging little injuries? Whether the pain you’re experiencing is from either a stuck receptor or is part of your neurosignature determines how pain management and treatment should be approached.

What are the common symptoms of injuries?

  • Bleeding
  • Bone deformity
  • Burns, blisters
  • Joint swelling
  • Lacerations, cuts
  • Pain (acute or chronic)
  • Reduced mobility
  • Scrapes
  • Tissue swelling, discoloration

3 Steps to Resolve Niggles

  1. A chiropractor, clinician, personal trainer, or other qualified professional needs to diagnose why you are dealing with nagging pain. They should look at your injury history and administer a physical exam.
  2. Specific stretches and exercises should be recommended to address your job or sports injury. (Often, rest and anti-inflammatory drugs are not enough to heal your injury. These may instead create a frustrating cycle of temporary relief and long-term dysfunction.)
  3. Patience. These nagging injuries probably took a long time to develop, so they may take a while to resolve. Physical therapy may cause discomfort before the pain starts to subside. But trust your clinician — they know how to get you back to normal life safely and quickly.

Treatments for Nagging Injuries

  • Chiropractic care realigns your spine, which should reduce inflammation and relieve the pressure that may be causing your discomfort. Sports chiropractic may effectively manage pain in your back, neck, shoulders, legs, and other injured areas.
  • Physical therapy is well-known to treat sprains, strains, and fractures, and to strengthen muscles after an injury. A qualified physical therapist not only has access to top-of-the-line equipment, he/she knows from years of education and experience exactly what you need to fully recover. He/she also helps you know how to avoid future injuries.
  • Massage therapy is great for muscle strain and chronic stress-induced injuries.
  • Electrical stimulation uses mild electrical pulses to help repair injured muscles, manipulate nerves, and reduce pain. Also called “e-stim”.
  • Dry needling is a great treatment for chronic pain, rehabilitation from injury, and injury prevention. It is great at finding and eliminating neuromuscular dysfunction that leads to nagging pain.

What helps injuries heal faster? Injuries can heal faster when good blood flow is encouraged. Ice, heat, precise movements, and increased hydration help this process along, as well as several advanced sports medicine technologies like NormaTec Recovery and the Graston technique.

See a doctor if… 

…you are experiencing chronic pain that just won’t go away. This is likely a sign of a bigger problem that needs to be addressed right away.

My name is Dr. Benjamin Cowin, and I’ve been a sports medicine specialist for 20+ years. Let me and my team help you with those nagging little injuries and jump-start the healing process.

Click here to set up an appointment with us. Action Spine & Sports Medicine is the best place in the Denver area to get those nagging injuries and problem areas looked at.

We aim to promote wellness in the rest of your body and accelerate the healing process, so you can get back to the normal activities you need to do. Click here to read testimonials from our satisfied patients.


  1. Borsook, D., Youssef, A. M., Simons, L., Elman, I., & Eccleston, C. (2018). When pain gets stuck: the evolution of pain chronification and treatment resistance. Pain, 159(12), 2421. Full text: 
  2. Melzack, R. (2001). Pain and the neuromatrix in the brain. Journal of dental education, 65(12), 1378-1382. Abstract: 
  3. Wilkey, A., Gregory, M., Byfield, D., & McCarthy, P. W. (2008). A comparison between chiropractic management and pain clinic management for chronic low-back pain in a national health service outpatient clinic. The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, 14(5), 465-473. Abstract:
  4. Noonan, T. J., & Garrett Jr, W. E. (1999). Muscle strain injury: diagnosis and treatment. JAAOS-Journal of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, 7(4), 262-269. Abstract:


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