Pain Traffic Light

Pain is a sensation/experience that all of us have. Most look at pain being a bad thing but it can be a reliable tool to tell us when something more serious is going on. For example, if you touch a hot pan, your body’s first instinct is to let go of it for protection. The same thing can happen if someone takes a step and their knee “gives out”. The brain is sensing danger and trying to protect the body. Pain traffic light is a great way to see how your body responds to exercises but other life stresses.

One big reason individuals are not able to fully get over an injury, is because they are not listening to what their bodies are telling them after exercise. The pain traffic light analogy is a tool I use with clients daily to allow us to make sure that we are modulating pain and able to progress exercise appropriately.

Let’s take a 38 year old CrossFit athlete who is having shoulder pain during workouts. She has been told to take time off and rest and ice her shoulder. 3 weeks later she feels better and goes back to CrossFit, only to experience the same pain again. The reason is because the “WHY” behind the injury was not addressed in the first place. This woman had a 6/10 pain with CrossFit workouts and this is what we will use for the example. The numbers are based on a pain scale out of 10 with 10 being the worst pain imaginable and 0 being pain free. Below is her pain traffic light.

Red Light: 6/10 or > STOP ACTIVITY. This is the danger zone and our body’s way of telling us that an activity is too much and we need to take a break

Yellow Light: 1-4/10 MODIFY ACTIVITY. There is some pain but it can be lowered by modifying the exercise (sets/reps/weight/depth/etc.) and lowering pain levels.

Green Light: 0/10 GO PHASE. If there is no pain, continue with the activity.

One important thing to note is seeing how you feel 24 hours after the activity or exercises. You may feel great during, but experiencing pain and discomfort the next day. This is not a bad thing! This just means we need to back off on the intensity and continue with the program.

This analogy allows me to check progress with clients and also put into perspective what activities might be under dosed or being done too much.

Comeback Performance helps baseball athletes eliminate pain, optimize throwing mechanics, and maximize potential. Comeback Performance is unlike any other physical therapy practice and specializes in the transition from traditional physical therapy to the playing field, by bridging the gap between rehab and performance. “The Comeback is Always Stronger Than the Setback.”

Schedule a free discovery call with Dr. Joey, Brighton Physical Therapist, and we can set up a plan to schedule a throwing or performance evaluation and discover the WHY behind the injury in the first place and improve throwing mechanics, improve baseball performance, and keep baseball athletes healthy long term.

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