Quick guide to injury

Quick guide to injury

A key to avoiding injury is understanding our bodies go through three zones during physical activity: Green, Yellow and Red Zones.

Green: All is going well. You are pushing your body but it can tolerate the exercise or the activity.

Yellow: The activity or exercise becomes a little more difficult. The next day there is persisting stiffness or tightness but no pain.

Red: You have pushed yourself during the activity – there was no holding back. You are now experiencing pain, and having difficulty completing tasks that weren’t a problem before.

When in the red zone, you have pushed yourself a little too far.

How many warning signals are there for injury?

The most common warning signal is pain – that’s the signal to stop what you are doing. But warning signals may also be:

Stiff joints

Tight muscles


Pins and needles


What about pain?

Pain is a strong indicator by the brain saying that whatever you’re doing cannot be tolerated.

The best scientific explanation for pain (by Australian pain scientist, Lorimer Mosely) is that it behaves like the red indicator dashboard light in your car. When the red engine dashboard light starts flashing you get your engine checked, and it’s the same with your body – when you experience pain, it’s a signal to get your body checked.

It’s important to check the body properly because the pain you’re experiencing in one part of the body may be caused by a problem elsewhere. For example, in our experience around 75% of back pain doesn’t even come from the back.

When should I get help?

A good rule of thumb: is my pain decreasing substantially over a 48-hour period? If not, see your GP, physiotherapist, or treating practitioner.

Many people wait weeks and sometimes months saying, “let’s wait and see”.

Final thoughts on injury

Old school thinking is to say “It’ll be right!” and push on. Unfortunately, this thinking results in more injuries, and worse injuries. It’s like the boiling frog metaphor: if you drop a frog into boiling water, it will jump out; but if it’s already submerged and the water is slowly heated the frog will not realise until too late.

New school thinking is about being smart, and mapping out your exercising and recovery:

  • If you’re in the Green zone – sleep and massage is required.
  • If you’re in the Yellow zone – sleep, hydration, compression garments, massage and physio
  • For the Red zone – you require a more comprehensive rehab program with GPs, physios, allied health and more consistent things you must do at home.