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Activity Pacing and in Chronic Pain Patients

Table of Contents

Activity Pacing (AP) is a Central Concept to many Theories and Treatments

People who have chronic pain conditions such as fibromyalgia, back pain or rheumatoid arthritis tend to take it easy, many because they are afraid to aggravate their condition. Many chronic pain sufferers believe that rest is best but just the opposite is true. Inactivity can actually worsen pain, according to pain specialists and doctors. People may begin to avoid the activities they once loved. They may fear a re-injury or worsening of the pain. This may lead to withdrawing from the life they knew and many suffer depression and anxiety. Inactivity coupled with some chronic pain or anxiety medications could lead to weight gain, which can further the pain.
With activity pacing, patients learn to effectively manage their condition and the pain. This is accomplished through management of activity and energy levels. This form of occupational therapy helps patients understand the importance of spacing activities throughout the day to get the body moving while avoiding worsening of pain. Productivity can suffer among patients with chronic pain. Pacing is a way to add structure to a person’s day when pain challenges mobility, energy and mood. This can also give people a sense of control when many things can feel beyond their control. Being able to use energy wisely throughout the day can actually cause energy levels to increase.
Your activity goal may be reached at a much slower  pace than you first planned. The important point is to set realistic goals and to pace yourself so that your well being and success can be achieved.

Pacing Activity

Pacing is a key skill to learn. Exercise and daily activity can help you to become more active, fitter and healthier.  Patients need to connected to physical activity of choice, based on health condition and pain levels, preferably something not t physically stressful,  like  walking to the end of the street, then around the block. Start at a level you can comfortably manage. Complete this level of activity for one week an no  matter how easy it feels, stay at the level you have set or the one you discussed with your physician. Having medical direction is always your safest and best way.
Most patients gradually increase their effort by 10% a week. Some increase in muscle pain is to be expected and should be discussed with your physician.

Pacing Balance is the Key

Balancing periods of activity and inactivity is important. Current measures provided for the control of activity pacing are inadequate. Doing too little at first may cause pain to subside, but this is temporary. Muscles can waste away and become inflexible, and this will only make the pain worse. There are some people who may try to do too much while living with chronic pain. This often leads to bad flare-ups, the need for longer recovery periods and exhaustion.
Planning activities and periods of rest is important to maintaining a schedule. People can benefit from planning their schedule the night before but it’s also important to set realistic goals. It can also help to keep a journal of activity, the time spent on each activity, rest periods and pain levels. This can help people to see what works and where adjustments can be made.

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