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Pain management: activity levels

You may have found that your activity levels have changed as a result of your pain condition. This can be difficult both physically and emotionally. Some of the information below may help you manage your activity levels.

What to avoid

The over activity/under activity cycle

This is a common pattern of behaviour that can occur when you try to manage long-term pain.

It is only natural to base what you do and how much you do on how you feel and your level of pain that day. As a result, you may try to 'catch up' on jobs and activities on good days, when you feel less pain, and end up overdoing it. Most people recognise that this can aggravate pain levels the next day, making you feel worse and able to do less.

The problem with this cycle is that, over time, your activity levels may gradually reduce if the 'bad' days get longer and the 'good' days get shorter. It can also be very frustrating and make it difficult to plan activities in advance.

Activity avoidance

It is natural to want to avoid activities that have previously aggravated your pain or that you are worried about. The problem with this approach is that, over time, you will start to lose physical fitness, your muscles will weaken, and your energy levels may reduce. Avoiding activities can also affect your confidence and mood.

This can trap you in another vicious cycle, where activities more readily start to aggravate your pain.

Pushing through the pain, leading to crisis

In an attempt to not let your pain 'beat' you, you may push yourself to carry on as 'normal', even with a flare-up of pain. As a result, you may aggravate your pain further and further push yourself to carry on.

This approach is not sustainable over a long period of time and can be exhausting. Eventually, you may hit a 'crisis', where you simply can't carry on and your activity levels reduce significantly. 

What can you do differently?

It is possible to break out of these cycles and change old habits by learning specific management skills, including pacing. 

As a result, you will control your activity levels and break away from being controlled by your pain. 

The pacing and activity management page will help you with this technique.

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