Deciding whether a niggle or a pain warrants a visit to a doctor, or a specialist such as a physio can be tricky. You have four options options.
1) Do nothing
It's surprising how many times people ignore a pain or a niggle hoping it will 'go away' particularly if there's a big game or event coming up and they can't afford to miss any training. Sometimes you can 'run off' a niggle or stiffness but more often than not then pushing through causes worse problems in the long run and a higher chance of you missing the game or event you were aiming for.
Positives: Free and easy
Negatives: Rarely effective and can lead to worse problems.
2) Self Treat
You can try and treat yourself from the latest exercises you've found on the Internet. If you know your body this can be a good option. It is a bit more hit and miss and only treats the symptoms but can be worth trying for a week or two.
Positives: Free and can be effective
Negatives: Can just treat symptoms rather than root cause, can take longer than seeing a specialist.
A GP only has ten minutes and will likely refer you to an NHS physio although sometimes you can self refer. Either way waiting times tend to vary by area.
If you're lucky you'll get a physio like my cousin in Glasgow who is an ironman triathlete and truly understands sporting injuries. Other times you may get someone who doesn't understand your sport or unfortunately as its a free service simply doesn't have the time to be able to understand the true cause and just gives you a list of generic exercises to try and alleviate the symptoms.
Positives: Free and can be very effective
Negatives: Hit and miss with level of understanding of sports injuries and time to understand root cause. Waiting times can vary.
If you want to have the greatest chance of finding someone that understands your sport, the injury you have and can treat both the symptoms and the cause then see a specialist.
You can research who is in your area and choose the best person for you. Appointments are typically 45-60 minutes which gives them the time to get to the root cause of the issue and they will likely pick up other areas of tension that you didn't realise you had.
Positives: Quick to get appointment, they have the time to understand the problem and you can choose who you want to see.
Negatives: Costs money and it can be hard to know who is worth paying for.
In summary you are not limited to one of these options. It's worth bearing in mind though that your body does need looking after. Regular servicing to check it's all working well and stopping tight spots becoming injuries is time and money well spent let alone when you're actually injured.
Alternatively you can try which ever option suits your circumstances best and can change if it doesn't work.
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