Learn to pace yourself

Living with chronic pain can be hard, but planning and time management can make tasks much easier.

Balancing activities and rest is difficult when you have chronic pain. One needs to pace their activities so time will be better managed. Everyone want to enjoy life and do things they care about. Many times with chronic pain a person tends to rest too much. This habit might have started when they began to feel some pain. Before you know it, those with the chronic pain are out of shape or they don’t have the stamina to enjoy what they would be doing. Most of the time this is due to poor muscle strength.

Dr. Bortz from Stanford University has cloned the phrase: “the disuse syndrome.” His research showed that inactivity leads to deterioration of body functions, from our heart to our bones and including our mental state. Generally, one can lose 10 percent of their muscle strength and muscle mass by being inactive for just one week! Therefore, resting is not good for your mental and physical health and certainly can cause more pain when you are suffering from chronic pain. On the other hand, some people push themselves too much and actually can injure their selves. For that reason, it’s important to know your body and your limits!

Pacing is knowing how to balance activity and rest so one can accomplish the things they want in their everyday life along with keeping the pain under control. By trial and error, many can find their comfort level. For example, a person in pain may want to work for an hour on a specific project. The project can be accomplished if they rest for five minutes every twenty minutes. Yes, it may take a little longer to do the tasks, but the person will feel physically better along with mentally better knowing a project was accomplished. When the individual with chronic pain takes a break, they can practice Mindful Breathing which will help in control of the chronic pain.

Another suggestion is to make a time schedule for activities and add a note to the schedule when pain occurs. Once the schedule is reviewed, it will be easier to plan which activities should be morning, afternoon or evening ones.

Three pace program for pacing suggested by Stanford University PATH programs:

  • Each evening, plan a schedule for the next day. It is important not to overschedule your activities so think of those you want to accomplish or those that can be done in or out doors depending on your weather and mobility
  • Schedule rest periods with your activities and take them. This is for your quality of life, not anyone else’s. For instance, you may only be able to sit at your computer for 10 minutes and someone else does not feel uncomfortable for 30 minutes.
  • Make sure all the time periods are filled with activities and rest breaks. This will encourage you to be time oriented instead of pain oriented. You will concentrate on your activity with more focus.

Following this three pace program, you will be able to plan realistic activates each day and accomplishing activates before pain becomes unbearable!

For more tips on health chronic pain, visit Michigan State University Extension

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