Laurie's Blog


01 Jun 2019

What do you do if you Flare Up a patient?

Flare Up

None of us ever intend to flare up a patient’s problems, but if you’re doing any kind of rehab, it’s going to happen from time to time.  So, best to know how to deal with the situation.  This was the topic of a blog post I found at:



Basically, if this were to happen, here are your 5 steps to put a positive spin on it!


1.Quickly Apologize: “I’m sorry that technique / exercise / movement irritated the joint / muscle / back / neck a little bit.”   Note that ‘irritated’ is a good word to use.  It does not signify damage.  You can follow up with, “Now we know Fido’s current limits”.  “This gave us valuable information.”


2.Stay Positive:  “This flare up is just a brain signal that we did just a little bit too much, too fast!”  “But we’re still making headway!”


3.Valuable Information was Gained: “Now we know Fido can do X amount of exercise / movement, or tolerate X amount of therapy, prior to Fido’s brain telling us to back off a bit.”  “This also gives us a good pre and post test measure.”


4.Why did that happen?  “Why do you think that happened?”  Turn it into an educational session on sensitivity, triggers, limits, and signs to watch for.


5.Have realistic expectations: “What did you think recovery would be like?”  “Healing from beginning to end isn’t a linear path.” “As long as the overall trend is upwards, we’re headed in the right direction!”



And while on a quick read, you might think this is just a blog about ‘covering your behind’, it’s all actually true!  Lots of times, we do things, prescribe things, and try things and are testing the tissues as we do!  It’s natural.  It’s needed.  And when tissues flare we get a clear answer that we hit a boundary.


What’s interesting in the information above, that I think is worth pointing out is that ‘pain is in the brain’.  So, the sections that talk about the brain, this is true for dogs as well.  The brain decides if you (or the dog) will feel pain or not!  Have you not looked at an x-ray and thought, “Wow, that dog must be in so much pain!” only to see a relatively happy and healthy creature in front of you?  So, a flare up doesn’t mean there was tissue damage.  It’s just a signal!  Which is the information we need to convey to the owner.


Anyways, I thought this was a good bit of information for all practitioners to be mindful of!  

Happy rehabbing!



Tags: Flare ups , dealing with situations , positive spin

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