Red Flags and what does that mean to you as a patient

Medically or clinically, red flags are signs or symptoms that leads the clinician, doctor, allied health professional, and of course the physiotherapist to suspect that the patient has possible conditions or diseases that renders the proposed treatment, in this case the physiotherapist should not render physiotherapy either in terms of the uses of electrical devices or manual therapy. These conditions or diseases are broadly categorised under the following:
1. Cancer/Malignancy
2. Infection
3. Spinal Fractures
4. Inflammatory Disorders/Inflammatory Back Pain (IBP)
5. Cauda Equina Compression (for spinal problems)

If the Physiotherapist suspects you may have any of these symptoms, he or she should be referring you to the relevant specialist for further medical imaging or laboratory testing to rule out these conditions. Although the presence of these conditions are thought to be about 0.7% according to Gibson M. who cited Henschke et al (2009) research.

For further details on red flags and their conventional proposed signs and symptoms, I would refer you to Gibson M.’s website.

However, I would hope that readers will understand that these signs and symptoms are more accurate when the patient has the cluster or many of the symptoms. A single symptom for example, unresolved back pain for more than a month is certainly not suggestive that you need to be alarmed or concern because it is such a common symptom and also bearing in mind that the presence of these conditions are less than 1%.

Feel free to email me via if you have any queries.

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