Quantified Pacing for Chronic Pain is Changing My Life

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I promise my title is not just to hook you. The new pacing method I have been using over the past three weeks has, without a doubt, drastically improved my quality of life, even in such a short period of time. I’m excited to share my experience with you further, because I think it could do the same for you!

To get a full description of the method I have been using, you can look at my first post on the subject, here. In that post, I called this method “quantified activity tracking,” but I think “quantified activity pacing” is a more accurate term. Although I have done some manner of pacing for quite a bit of time, it has never been as accurate or effective as this new method.

This method is so accurate because I have started quantifying each one of my activities, assigning a number value based on how much energy I exert and how much effect each activity has on my body. Like so..

pts

Each day I add up each of my numbered activities to give me a point value for each day. I then sum up all of my point values for each day into one large point value for the whole week.

The first week of tracking enabled me to gauge my baseline activity level. From there, I set goals for myself each week to either stay consistent with the same baseline or increase my baseline by a set number of points. Because I am keeping such detailed track of my activity level, I am able to increase my baseline accurately and extremely gradually to avoid flaring.

The following picture is an example of how I tracked my second week.

Underneath my activity tracking – which you can’t see in this picture – I also track my pain levels, medications, and other significant information.  I encourage you to click on the picture because it gives you a detailed idea of the format I am using to track my activities. You can see that I have two columns for each day – one to list the activities and one to list the corresponding number of points given to that activity.

Quantified Pacing Screen Shot

How is this helping me? In so many ways.

Quantified pacing has shown me that my pain is more predictable than I thought. 

The most important thing about this tracking system is that it is teaching me things about my pain that I never noticed when I was simply relying on my own brain power to remember patterns and correlations. I used to think that my pain was entirely unpredictable, and there could be no way for me to know why one day I would flare up and the next day I would not. I am now learning that my pain levels have much less to do with the activities I do today and much more to do with the activities I did yesterday and the day before yesterday. I never would have known this without being able to look for patterns in objective data tracked over a long period of time. 

My quantified pacing chart tells me if I am about to flare before my body even begins to feel it. 

I could not even believe how accurate this tracking system has been, scarily accurate to the point where it begins to tell me the future about my body. After only three weeks, I can tell from my chart and my point levels if my pain levels are going to increase before my body can even feel it. It tells me when to stop even if my body feels like it can keep going. The times I have ignored the points and just kept going, I have greatly regretted it.

I have learned that I can do two full days in a row in which I push the number of points I use to the limit, but on the third day I have to rest or I start to crash. If I do not rest the third day, I often have to take the entire fourth day, which usually is not worth it.

Even if you have an amazing memory, the ability to objectively compare activity levels with pain levels, medications that were taken, and other significant events will undoubtedly teach you things about your pain you were not aware of before.

Now of course, it isn’t fooproof, and I still need to pay attention to what my body is telling me, but having objective data in front of me is an invaluable tool in helping me stay on track.

Quantified pacing helps me know when I am making progress, even when it feels like I am not. 

Because the number system is so detailed and accurate, you can see when you are increasing your activity levels from week to week, even when the increase is incremental. This does wonders for building hope and motivation to move forward.

Quantified pacing helps me prioritize what is most important. 

Because I now plan out my activities ahead of time each day, I am able to prioritize what is most important to make sure it gets done each day. For me, that has mostly included doing my exercises and going for my walk. In the past, I would often use up all of my energy on other things I was more excited about doing. When I plan ahead, I remind myself that doing my exercises is more important in the long run.

This quantified tracking system gives me confidence to engage in activities that typically make me anxious. 

Because I can objectively assess how much I do each day and plan out my activities ahead of time in detail, I am not scared to try things because I now have an accurate way to know if they fall within the range of my ability or not. For example, going out to restaurants has caused flare ups for me in the past, so I tend to avoid this. However, if I can objectively see that I have enough points left over that day to go out to eat, I can happily go out without obsessing over whether I made a bad choice.

Quantified pacing has been a life saver for me!  I can see it being helpful for individuals with chronic pain, ME/CFS, and various other chronic illnesses in which pain  is an issue you and you are seeking to build up your activity levels. I hope you will give it a try. I don’t think you will regret it.

10 responses

  1. Amazing results! So glad that you have found a quantitative way to measure your activity levels and how they interact with your pain…ingenious! I’m happy for you that you have found a way to regain hope.

    • I am truly not exaggerating how much this has helped me for this post. So glad my doctor suggested it. Hope you are doing well!

    • It is helping me so much! I definitely recommend giving it a try to anyone trying to build up activity levels in a consistent and graduated way.

  2. I’ve never quite tracked like this, but the more information that I have (like keeping a real schedule of what I plan to do and checking it off/adding what I did) and keeping the most detailed notes that I can on symptoms, medication changes, etc., the better I can find patterns.
    Since I have not always been diligent in tracking, I’ve had great family members who have been like “you always have a headache the day after you take that medication for that other symptom,” so then I notice, and have to weight the benefit of one relief against another pain.
    I always thought of these things in just terms of exercise, but recently, I’ve also been trying to apply them to life, so I can just get out of bed. Time and experience has shown me what will definitely aggravate my neck/neurological condition (no unloading the dishwasher, yoga, or it is almost time for or I just had an outpatient treatment on my neck), but writing things down shows me surprising things that help!
    I love your smart system, especially for someone who is still trying to figure it out. Either way, it’s inspiring to know that we can figure out patterns, if we’ll pick a system, stick to it, and look for the patterns, plus we can slowly increase 🙂

    • Yes, totally agree that the more information the more likely to find patterns. And I am finding new patterns I never knew about. It has been so incredibly helpful!

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