People with chronic pain often do too much when they’re having good days and not enough when they’re having bad days.
Chronic pain can cause us to overprotect ourselves. Our natural reaction to pain is to avoid activities that worsen our discomfort or increase our perceived risk of further damage. When we become overly fearful and stop doing things in anticipation of pain, we can make things worse.
Inactivity reduces our functional ability and decreases our strength and stamina. It also prevents us from getting involved in the social, leisure, and work activities we enjoy.
Pacing/moderation has become a common tool for people living with chronic pain to help provide them with balance. It includes setting time limits, slowing down (start low, go slow), breaking up tasks, and taking frequent short breaks.
But be careful not to let pacing become an excuse for not being active or avoiding pain. Doing so can add more focus to the pain, worsen symptoms, and reduce physical stamina.
Pacing should instead be used to gradually increase what we can do, despite the pain. Stay consistent with your activity.
The difference is in the goal and execution. Keep moving forward.
Learn more and do more
Cooper, Booker and Spanswick, 2003
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Tom Bowen is a chronic pain patient who turned into an advocate, educator, and collaborator.