Welcome to the Mike Varney Physiotherapy News and Advice blog

Good Pain? Bad Pain?

Those of you who visited our clinic or who have read any of our previous material will understand we have a two-way relationship with our patients. We pride ourselves with providing some fantastic PASSIVE treatment options which we can help you or your injured or dysfunctional body part. There is however another part of our Physiotherapy which involves patients taking an ACTIVE role in their rehabilitation or recovery.

Among other ACTIVE elements to your recovery, prescriptive exercise will no doubt be an essential component.

A common mistake we regularly come across is patients waiting for the “pain” to stop before starting to exercise or rehabilitate their injured body part. Patients who make the fastest recovery are those who have a better understanding of the different types of pain the body can give you. Contrary to popular belief… not all pain is a bad thing.

Topically, pain is an ocean of information and boring chemical names and pathways. This blog is focusing on the sensation of pain. The pain a patient experiences as they progress through their treatment and rehabilitation. As a very rough guide, we like to use a system, known as “Traffic Lighting” to self-evaluate the different sensations that you are likely to experience during your recovery.

Green Light.   “Pulling Pain”

When you experience this type of sensation, it usually means soft tissue e.g muscles and tendons are moving. If some of these tissues haven’t been moved in a while or are tight they will produce a Pulling Sensation. This is generally accepted as SAFE and you can carry on- like driving towards a Green Light.

Amber Light.  “Aching Pain” 

When you experience this type of sensation, it means are putting some form or load or force through the affected body part. Many injuries and dysfunctions require a certain amount of this force in order to re-strengthen or heal the area fully. Therefore, avoiding Achey Pain can actually hold your recovery back. This is also generally accepted as SAFE, however just like approaching an Amber Light you may want to slow the vehicle slightly and PROCEED with caution.

Red Light.  “Sharp Pain”

If that ache turns into a sharp sensation, it can mean the forces going through the body part are exceeding what the tissue is able to tolerate. When a sharp sensation is experienced, we would ask the patient to STOP the current exercise. However instead of avoiding that exercise completely we would modify something e.g. how much weight the patient is lifting or how far they are bending their knee.

So, in summary when you participate in the rehabilitation and ACTIVE part of your Physiotherapy, you are likely to experience a number of sensations in your injured body part. Try to keep within the Green and Amber Lights and aim for the that “Achey-Pulling” sensation and be sure to keep your physio updated on any Red “stop” Lights.

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