Red flags - what are they?


It would not be uncommon for patients to 'Google' their symptoms, and be faced with daunting suggestions that they have a serious illness. But did you know that only around 1% of all musculoskeletal presentations are due to serious pathology?


When you visit your healthcare professional regarding an injury you are carrying, it is important you know that your general health is also being screened to observe the possible likelihood your presentation could be pathological in nature. A flag system exists to be able to offer the best care for patients, and comprises of red, orange, yellow, blue and black flags. Red flags are characteristics from a patient's case history and clinical exam that may suggest a serious disorder such as infection, cancer, or fracture.


Should your therapist believe your clinical presentation may involve infection, cancer or fracture, then you will be referred immediately for further investigations. It is important to note that patient presentation, case history, and clinical examination, (involving special testing) will lead your therapist into making an informed decision whether to refer or not. 99% of the time, symptoms will be of musculoskeletal in origin, and can be managed conservatively. Your therapist should explain their conclusions fully, to put your mind at ease and offer a comprehensive action plan to aid in your recovery, should you wish to embark on that journey.