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Yellow flags for chronic pain

Updated: Dec 1, 2023

Indicators you may need to seek help from a pain specialist

  1. Chronic pain (> 3 months) that has been treated unsuccessfully by standard care

  2. Difficulty keeping appointments and doing home exercises

  3. Symptoms worsening or exacerbated during/after every treatment, even when activity is minimal

  4. Sensitivity to changes in the weather

  5. Frustration because of lack of improvement

  6. History of central sensitization: fibromyalgia, CRPS, phantom pains, restlessness, carpal tunnel syndrome, plantar fasciitis, migraines

  7. Things just seem "weird" and symptoms don't make sense - you never seem to feel better for very long

  8. Spreading pain

  9. Focus is often on how "old" you feel and your body is "falling apart"

  10. Focus is often more on pain than on function (excessive pain levels > 8/10)

  11. Viewing oneself as a victim and blaming others for your painful situation (medical providers, coworkers, the idiot who ran into you 25 years ago)

  12. Various psychological conditions (anxiety/depression, suicidal thoughts, drug abuse - including alcohol, medications, nicotine, coffee; night pain preventing sleep that isn't post-surgical)

  13. Fear-avoidance tendencies and disfunction stemming from hypervigilance

  14. No longer participating in activities that would bring you joy - loss of desire/motivation to engage in life

  15. Holding grudges (those who harbor ill feelings tend to have more stress in life and are more likely to have persistent pain)


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