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6 Questions to Ask When Self-Assessing Pain


As a physical therapist I commonly get asked, “how much pain is “safe?” I don’t even like to use the word “pain” but we’ll go with it for now. ⁣

I could say less than a 3 out of 10 that goes away within 24 hours is fairly safe, but pay attention to the next time it shows up if it does. ⁣ ⁣ Or I can share these 6 professional self-assessment questions. Pro Tip: PTs start with these! 


Next time you notice some discomfort, keep track of it with these questions:

  1. How did it start? Mechanism of Injury (MOI): Was there something that caused it? One bad rep? One tackle? A fall? Or did it gradually reveal itself? This information can be telling of what structures may be affected. If you’re unsure, a PT can help detect it!

  2. When did it start? When did you notice it? How long has this been an issue?This can tell a lot about the chronicity of an injury or symptom and how long things have been “affected.” It’s important in determining the stage of tissue healing and the recovery timeline. Also can be closely linked to the MOI.

  3. How intense is it? How intense are the symptoms? Rate it from 0–10. How strong is the pain This is subjective, but it’s important to judge this relative to yourself. IMPORTANT: This number is NOT the defining factor, just another piece of the puzzle Ex: Papercuts and stepping on Legos, while incredibly painful, are not life-threatening!

  4. How limiting is it? Severity: How much is this impacting your daily life? Do you feel it every minute of the day? Does it wake you up at night? Or maybe it’s just an “awareness” or mild discomfort? Severity can be telling of how debilitating an injury is.

  5. What does it feel like? Dull? Achy? Throbbing? Sharp? Shooting? Electric? Numb? There are a lot of descriptors that can help determine the potential causes of injury, even the type of tissue involved (i.e. nerve vs. muscle!). A PT can help you differentiate between what you’re feeling!⁣

  6. Is it changing? Has there been a change in symptoms? A change in any of these mentioned variables can be a sign of injury healing or worsening. This is key in determining what’s working or not along the recovery journey — from exercises to mindset! A change in any of the above variables can tell us how the original injury is doing. ⁣

 If you had any answers to these questions that surprised you, 𝗯𝗼𝗼𝗸 𝗮 𝗰𝗼𝗻𝘀𝘂𝗹𝘁 𝘄𝗶𝘁𝗵 𝗺𝗲! 

An injury thats been bugging for >2 months with NO change is a sign that something needs help. Something that’s caused you to quit 50% of your favorite activities deserves attention!⁣ ⁣ So, while these are great questions to start with, but a PT will help you navigate them with a proper plan to get you OUT of this. Put yourself first! You deserve it.⁣ ⁣

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