Why progress is measured by more than just changes to your pain


Almost everyone who comes to see a physio is coming (at least initially) because of some sort of pain. You rolled your ankle, hurt your back, your shoulder pinches – pain is usually present. And because pain is generally unpleasant, when we’re injured we go looking for solutions to “fix” the problem.

Pain is an indicator that something is not right (or perceived to be not right) in your body. Its giving you information – alerting you to a perceived threat. Something is not as it should be in your body. Maybe it’s a tight joint, strained muscle, sprained ligament – your body sends messages to your brain that something is not right and you then feel pain.

Our body is a movement ecosystem

Our body is a movement system that’s influenced by lots of different things. So to get an accurate idea of how well the movement system is working we look for signs that tell us how “healthy’ the system is.

In the same way if your car was shuddering when you accelerate a mechanic would look at a number different things in the car to make sure he or she arrived at the right cause of the problem (a broken coil in my case recently!).

What a physio might measuresciatica

If you’ve got back pain a physio will want to know where your pain is, the intensity of it but also:

  • what movements affect the pain
  • how far you can move your back
  • the quality of the movement  (how smooth it is)
  • the strength of the muscles in your legs
  • nerve signs: reflexes, nerve tension, sensation
  • functional tasks (eg how you lift/walk/rise from sitting)
  • how your hip moves
  • how your thoracic spine moves

But why measure all those things?

The main reason we’re measuring those other things is to understand how your back pain is affecting your whole movement system and to help track change when we start on a management plan.

Often other signs change before pain. You might notice you regain the strength in your ankle or can bend forward further before you notice the pain experience change. This is information telling us that you’re on the right track.

If other parts of your movement system improve with a treatment strategy we typically see the pain experience improve along with it.

Tips for recovering well from pain and injury

  1. Get a thorough examination of the problem.
  2. Take note of all (or at least a few) aspects of your movement system that is not functioning as it needs to.
  3. Put in place a reasonable treatment strategy.
  4. Track changes to your movement system over time.
  5. Use positive changes to non-pain signs as fuel for optimism with recovery

Book an online appointment with one of our team today!

Equip Physiotherapy is here to help reduce your pain & manage injuries! Booking through our online appointment form is the most convenient way to lock in the team member & time you want.