Maximise Your Functionality with Effective Activity Pacing

Posted underMSK Pain

Living with Pain? Learn How to Manage Daily Activities to Minimise Discomfort

Dealing with chronic pain can be tough. However, some of our day to day activities may be exacerbating the problem. Meet Jim, who’s been nursing a small tendon tear in his shoulder for four months. He’s concerned that any activity causing pain could lead to further damage, so he’s stopped moving his arm altogether. This sedentary lifestyle has led to muscle weakness, making it harder to carry out basic tasks.

Sasha, on the other hand, has been living with low back pain for ten years. Although she takes pride in her housekeeping and gardening, the pain gets worse as the day progresses. This lower back injury and disc pain leaves her feeling upset and frustrated. 

Then there’s Eric, who’s now retired and determined to continue playing golf, despite being diagnosed with moderate osteoarthritis in his knee. He can barely walk after a game and spends the next day recuperating on the couch. Recently, he’s been forced to cut down on his golf games for joint pain management, as it takes him two days to recover after each round.

If you’re facing similar challenges, there are ways to manage your musculoskeletal pain and live a more fulfilling life. Learn how to optimise your daily routine to minimise pain conditions and get back to doing the things you love.  

Unfortunately, many people fall into one of three counterproductive patterns, as demonstrated by Jim, Sasha, and Eric.

  • Underactivity: Avoiding activities altogether, often out of fear of triggering pain. This sedentary lifestyle leads to muscle weakness and other health issues.
  • Overactivity: Excessively pushing through the pain, either in the moment or later. This approach often leads to further damage and a worsening of symptoms.
  • Overactivity/Underactivity: The boom-bust cycle, which involves periods of intense activity, leading to flare-ups of pain, followed by prolonged periods of rest to “recover.” This approach disrupts your ability to engage in meaningful activities and can lead to feelings of frustration and depression.

By identifying and avoiding these common pitfalls, you can manage your lumbar pain and musculoskeletal pain more effectively and get back to doing the things you love.

Living with chronic pain conditions can be challenging, but avoiding activity altogether or overdoing it can make the situation worse. Both underactivity and overactivity can perpetuate pain, leading to psychological distress and a loss of control over one’s life.

The boom-bust cycle, characterised by periods of intense activity followed by prolonged periods of rest, is also counterproductive, leading to progressively less activity over time.

Activity pacing, or “pacing up,” is a method of gradually building functional levels and regaining control over your life. By systematically managing your activities, you can reduce disc pain, pain conditions and improve your quality of life. A healthcare professional trained in pain management can guide you through this process and help you problem-solve along the way.

It’s also important to manage the expectations of others and recognise the pressure we put on ourselves. The focus should be on achieving goals, building strength and endurance, and improving functionality, rather than eliminating musculoskeletal pain altogether. With the support of family and friends and a structured plan, you can regain control over your pain and get back to the things you love.

Learn how to effectively manage your lower back injury or lumbar pain through activity pacing with this simple guide:

  • Choose an activity that you want to do, like walking, cycling, or gardening. This method can also be used for more sedentary tasks like sitting at a desk.
  • Establish your baseline by measuring the maximum amount of time you can perform the activity over three to five days before your pain level increases. Take the average of these times. For example, if you walked for 8, 12, and 10 minutes over three days, your average maximum would be 10 minutes.
  • Begin at 80% of your maximum level to ensure that it is achievable. If you’re starting with walking and your maximum is 10 minutes, begin with 8 minutes. You can do the activity once a day, or twice a day if you recover quickly.
  • Maintain this level on most days of the next week, even if you experience more pain than usual. The goal is to keep your activity level consistent and to slowly build tolerance over time to prevent flare-ups.
  • Increase your activity level by around 10% each week. In our walking example, you would increase from 8 minutes to almost 9 minutes. Maintain this new level for one week before increasing again.
  • Stay in control during flare-ups by reducing the activity level, but don’t revert right back to your baseline level. Gradually build up again.

Tracking your progress in an activity diary is a great way to monitor your progress over time. Remember, activity pacing requires patience and dedication but can significantly improve your quality of life. Learn more about musculoskeletal pain by researching joint pain management, pain treatment or pain conditions

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