But how do we measure the impact of pain and the rate of recovery? We know that pain tolerance is too individual and subjective to rely on pain scales and descriptions. Muscular strength and flexibility don't correlate well to dysfunction. And you can't exactly hold a measuring tape to pain.
Although, while scientists are trying to find new ways to measure pain, there's one method that I prefer over any other to determine a client's state. It's also the unit that will nearly always be the most meaningful to the client: the activities that they can do.
My most successful clients are usually those that come into the clinic concerned about a loss of ability, not simply those who are in pain. A lot of individuals feel pain, but it is the motivation to regain a certain lifestyle that drives them into a rehab program.
That being said, using lifestyle and activities as our unit of measure helps both the client and the clinician. The therapist is able to accurately gauge the client's physical improvement (or their readiness to improve) while the client is able to truly feel and see that improvement while using those lifestyle activities as goal-setting and motivation. A client going from being able to barely walk to walking 30 minutes per day and then finally back to hiking is a much more important observation than her MRI findings or the angles I find her pelvis to be sitting in.
At the end of the day, it's not simply how strong you are. It's not whether or not you can touch your toes. It's not what shows on an x-ray. It's how you feel, physically and mentally, and what you're able to do leave the clinic and do.