Rules for Pain: When to Stop
Updated: Jun 25, 2020
It's very important to understand pain a bit better to understand our own body. Pain is a signal from our body that is telling us there is a Potential threat. It doesn't necessarily mean damage especially when pain lingers and the healing is mostly done. I think this information is fundamental to understanding your body and should be included in high school education. So here are some rules to follow about your pain in rehab or with a new pain.
Pain is Talking to You!
Musculoskeletal pain is talking to us when we are active. You may feel mild pain with activity. Realize that a little bit of pain is usually a warning to be easy on the area. An injured area is telling you to be sensitive to it and says be careful with mild pain before any damage is done. Listen to your pain but you don't have to avoid it altogether in most conditions.
Pain Resolves with Change in Movement - GREEN LIGHT
Certain movements or activities can cause pain. Many times in physical therapy we can change your movement pattern or other variables to get rid of the pain so you can continue to move, exercise, or train during your injury recovery. This is the best case. You can continue to protect injured areas without completely resting.
Mild to Moderate Pains - YELLOW LIGHT
While using a painful body part, you may notice that there is a mild pain or tolerable pain with some activities. Very mild, tolerable pains can be okay and usually the body is warning you before any more damage is occurring. Pay attention to see if your pain is increasing as you continue your activity. This is a sign that you maybe need to rest it or modify activity when pain continues to increase.
Sharp or Intense Pains - RED LIGHT!
Sharp or intense pains are an immediate sign to stop. If there is a pinching sensation or sudden pain, you should be stopping. Your body is yelling now. "Stop It!" Ideally, avoid that motion which is bringing it on for a period of time. We can change positions or movement patterns to change this pain in many cases. If you are unable to stop the pain by avoiding the motion, I highly recommend seeing a medical provider to find out the best next steps.
This is a simplified format as different injuries need different treatment. While a rotator cuff injury may be able to be pushed, a hip labral tear injury should be babied a bit. So assessment can find out the optimal management.
If you're having pain, it is probably best to ask a physical therapist about what you can do next to feel great and get out of pain!