Pacing and planning

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Sometimes when we first go back to work or any activity, we can overdo it.


Our mind wants us to see the activity through to its conclusion like we used to, but our body just cannot keep up.

So, what happens, is that whilst we may get that one activity done, it can mean a flare up in symptoms and a longer period of rest before we can do the same activity again. This is known as the boom bust work method.

In fact, it can lead to a gradual worsening over time.

The way to improve your ability to manage your work tasks without experiencing high levels of pain or discomfort after extended periods of work, and to prevent boom bust work patterns, is to use pacing techniques. The aim of pacing is to maintain an even level of activity across the day, rather than doing as much as you can at work on Monday and then on Tuesday not being able to manage your work.

Boom-bust leads to gradual worsening over time

Boom-bust graph

Pacing pattern leads to improvement over time

Pacing pattern graph

Pacing graphs explained here.

Here are some ways that we can incorporate pacing in our day

Break tasks down into smaller steps

Instead of completing activity to the point where pain is the reason for stopping, figure out how much you can do without aggravating the pain. Over time you can then build on this gradually.

Take frequent short breaks

Do something for a set time, have a break and then do some more. It doesn’t always mean stopping completely, it could mean doing the task in a different position or doing a different task that is less intensive.

Gradually increase the amount that you do

To pace up your activity, increase it by a set amount each day or every few days. Stick to this plan, even if you are feeling good. Sometimes we can slip back into boom/bust patterns if we over do our activity on a 'good' day.

Follow the steps below to incorporate pacing into your work routine and gradually increase what you can manage.

Step 1
Work out your baseline

What can you do now without aggravating your pain?

Step 2
Decide on a realistic gradual increase

Build up the task by doing it for a little extra time each day. Always stop when you intend to rather than keep going.

Step 3
Write your plan down and track your progress