When to Accept Pain and When to Seek Help

In my clinical experience, I found out real quickly how much people accept pain, especially chronic pain, as their “normal”. They make the pain part of their life and they learn to live with it. I have had way too many patients come to me after 1, 2, or even 12 years of chronic pain. Why do people wait so long to get help?

My rule of thumb is if the pain lasts for more than 1-2 weeks, wake you up at night, or limits your range of motion, seek help!!

The longer you let your pain persist, the longer it will likely take to recover from it. I have found this to especially be the case with shoulder injuries. Ignoring shoulder pain, or if you subconsciously avoid using that arm for day-to-day tasks, your injury will very likely take longer to recover once you do seek help. The key is to recognize these signs early, and if you have ignored them to seek treatment as soon as you can.

Another issue that goes hand in hand with often ignored chronic pain is patience. If you have been experiencing pain for 1, 2, or 12 years, it will not be a quick fix. Turning your rehab program into a habitual activity is the key to success. Treatment is greatly helpful, but if you don’t put the work in your self such as strengthening or flexibility work on top of the treatment you are receiving then you are hindering your progress.

In an initial assessment with all of my Athletic Therapy patients, I try to help the patient define good vs. bad pain. An example of “good” pain is when you are exercising and you feel fatigued, is not sharp in nature, and is tolerable. “Bad” pain is sharp, limits your range of motion, and/or is radiating pain down the arms, legs, or elsewhere.

Additionally, I use pain on a scale from 0-10. In exercises or activities of daily living (ADLs), my rule is to have no pain over a 4/10 and NO sharp pain. If you do experience “bad” pain, this is an indication where you should STOP that activity or movement.

I also advise individuals if it’s a movement they want to continue doing, try and do it in a pain-free range of motion. For instance, if you perform a full depth squat that causes you to paint over a 4/10 and is sharp, try a mini squat. At least then you are still performing the movement and can monitor your progress by testing more full range of motion squats, later on, to see if there is a change/improvement in the pain.

As you can tell, I can talk a lot about pain. Remember my rule of thumb next time you experience pain: if the pain lasts for more than 1-2 weeks, wakes you up at night, or limits your range of motion, seek help!!

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