A Week in the Life of Chronic Pain in Numbers

For the past 48 weeks, I have kept track of every single activity that I do using the method outlined in this post. When I started, I took the time to assign each activity in my life a numerical quantity. This allows me to quantify all of the activities I do in a given day, week, or month and better pace myself.

Through this method, I have greatly reduced the number of major flares I experience. It helps me plan out my week and ensure that I do not overschedule myself. As I have said in previous posts, I highly recommend this system for anyone who experiences chronic pain to help with careful pacing.

Today I had a little fun with my chart. Because I have numerical symbols of all my activities, I was able to do some simple calculations to give a picture of what a week in the life of chronic pain looks like.

From the chart below you can see how I spend my time and the percentage of my points that I put towards various activities in my life.


Almost half (49.33%) of my points go towards work, including my commute back and forth. The next biggest slice of my life (19.24%) is put towards PT and gentle exercise to prevent deconditioning and relapse. Next comes essential chores such as laundry, cooking, and cleaning, which accounts for 14.92% of all that I do each week. And the final two ways I use my points are for going to church on Sunday (9.52% of my week) and showers/getting ready (7.62% of my week).

This chart counts for every single activity I do in an average week. There is nothing left for me to sneak into the cracks. I don’t’ have wiggle room if I want to maintain my current work schedule. Currently I don’t have any points leftover in my week to go do things with friends or do anything extra that I enjoy. I am not saying this to complain, because I am beyond thankful for how much I am able to do at the moment, but simply to give a picture of the life of someone with moderate pain. I know that people with more severe pain would have a much more limited chart.

The biggest surprise in calculating how I spend my week was how much of my energy I put towards PT and gentle exercise (walking around the block). I had not realized this was my second biggest way I use my points each week. It feels like put so much energy towards this simply to stay where I am.

I am curious what a chart would look like for the average person. I think the percentages would be different. Also, I think it is important to remember that this chart simply shows percentages and does not show how limited my total points are compared to a healthy individual. A healthy individual may perhaps have similar percentages, but would obviously be doing way more of each category.

What do you think your percentages look like?


5 responses

  1. I think I probably put more percentage time into essential chores, especially grocery shopping. Still haven’t shifted to ordering them since it’s really my main exercise. Glad that charting is helpful to keep striking the balance that will maintain your well-being.

    • Before I started my new job, I also put much more percentage to chores. Grocery shopping takes up sooo much energy! I love to cook, so it is sad to have to do so little in this area, but I guess it will be worth it in the end 🙂

  2. Hi Esther, that’s an interesting chart. I get what you mean when you say a healthy person or even half-retired might have a similar one but the level of functioning might be totally different. Exercise for others would be running or lift heavy stuff or doing errands in a rush while there is no way you could do that. It’s obvious to us yet not to many who would look at the chart and see ‘oh, see, she can work half the time” without realizing just how much an accomplishment that is and how much will power it takes you. So kudos for that. I envy you can actually go out to church. Not that I practice myself but to be able to go out and follow your passion is great. I spend my time reading about science and nerdy stuff, thinking of creative things as well, audiobooks and such with my time. Sometimes it overlaps with my resting time becuse it’s hard to fall asleep, my thoughts keep turning to dark themes otherwise.

    What would my chart look like? O_O Now that IS a brain teaser to a severe chronic fatigue person because symptoms are all over the place, from hour to hour, day to day, weeks, months, years… When I think I finally have gotten my body strong enough to handle one more chore or exercise or outing, it fails me and back to the drawing board we go. I end up with new symptoms I worry about until I read in my books about it that they are part of the condition, then I relax more about it. But actually, it usually takes me weeks to realize that I need to redraw my schedule that took so much effort to come up with and to attend some hard-won routine for sleep, chores, exercise, spacing out appointments, etc. Heck, exactly a month ago I was visiting a friend up north (with difficulty and help sure but still made it!) but now I’d need paramedics to get me there.

    So willingness to adapt, as much as it is frustrating I’m sure you know as well, is necessary. Still grateful I can walk around with my walker which I have taken out in the apartment again. Not something I look forward to but if needed, I’ll do it. I trained my cat to jump on it to keep me company on it and he loves to take a ride with me so that makes it all the better. Bought lots of soups and easy foods because I could barely eat these past 2 weeks (glad my appetite and stomach seem better that way).
    Sure, my chart right now has no outings at all, half the day is spent sleeping because I fall asleep on my recliner otherwise (I’m on a regimen of going back to bed every 3 hours or else it becomes dangerous to walk around), chores are 5 to 10 min, up to an hour or 90 min a day if having a ‘better bad day’ (I know you’ll get this!)… it fluctuates a lot. But chores are my exercise since I have no energy at all left for extra training except abdominal and back muscle strengthening and my usual stretching. In my case, those are continuous during the day, there is no way to quantify.

    But I’ve learned that pacing is indeed what will put me back on track, eventually. It’s happened many times over. I know you mentioned how this happened to you as well and it seemed crashes wiped out your efforts. It’s what my specialists recommend, too. It will be long and I’ve been doing way too much to help my husband (though he deserved and needed it), and now I pay the price. Just didn’t think I’d pay that hefty a price though. It’s actually been quite scary this time. Knowing you can’t go to the hospital or call a family doctor because they’ll just say they are powerless is quite daunting.

    But I have to have hope and faith that I will make it back to a better place after this really weird flare. We also booked my specialist because this is really unusual but I might not see her till the end of February since she’s so busy. In the meantime, the naturopaths doing a special shift and the one who worked with our top Canadian specialist doctor on my conditions happens to work near here so we will see her next week. That should help in the meantime, if only to provide some stress relief that I’m not losing all my hard-won progress.

    So my chart: snafu or fubar. Don’t know which one applies here!

    You take care, I’m glad you can do so much exercise and work, knowing that it is very challenging for you to do all those!

    • Looking back, I think it would have been more telling if I had compared all my activity to my rest time, but I don’t actually keep track of that. I just know that rest is most of what I do 🙂 I hear you about the ups and downs – that is another post in which I will look back on the whole year. My chart clearly shows the slowly building up and then the crashing down, over and over again.

      Sorry for your flare. It is so hard to be in a better place and then all of the sudden, for no apparent reason, not be able to do what you could a month ago. I have been there and know it is incredibly demoralizing 🙁

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