For the past 52 weeks I have been following a careful pacing plan for chronic pain. Every single day I open up my excel spreadsheet and log in every single one of my activities for the day. Each activity corresponds with a numerical quantity and at the end of the day, and again at the end of the week, I can add the numbers up to see how many points I used.
Over time, this pacing strategy has given me an accurate understanding of what my body can do and handle. It’s not 100% full-proof, but it is surprisingly accurate. And I am happy to say that in the 52 weeks I have been using it, I have completely avoided severe flaring and major relapses.
Do I still flare? Of course. I have little flares on a regular basis, and medium flares every month or so. You can see this from the ups and downs of my chart. Something will trigger a flare, and lead to a sharp drop in my activity levels. Then over the next weeks, I build my activity levels up again, slowly but surely.
It is impossible at this point to avoid all flares, but the fact that I have avoided the type of flare that last for months and relapses that last even longer is a huge success.
Using a pacing chart has shown me that pain is more predictable than I first believed. My pacing chart has helped me become an expert on my pain in a way that never would have happened if I were trying to analyze my days in my head. Using my chart, I have learned how many points I can use in a day without flaring. I have learned how many points I can use in a week without major issues. I have learned the most effective ways to save points for later, and eek out all available extra points one day without having massive problems the next day. The numbers rarely lie.
My pacing chart has helped me manage busy weeks by planning ahead. I look at the week ahead of me on my excel spreadsheet and map out when I will shower, when I will go to work, and when I will manage the cooking.
My anxiety has decreased since I began using my pacing chart. When the numbers tell me I can do something without major consequences, I get up and do that activity without anxiety that it will lead to a relapse. I now feel more comfortable doing things that I had stopped doing before. The chart gives me a semblance of control over my days, which helps me enjoy the activities that I can do more.
My pacing chart helps me make more progress with my PT and short walks. I am able to give preference to these activities towards the beginning of the day and use my chart to figure out how many points I have left for other things I want to do.
This type of pacing does require a lot of effort and self-restraint. It takes time to log everything and plan everything out. It takes a lot of dedication to keep up with it every day for an inevitable period for time. But I can honestly say that it has been one of the most successful pain management strategies I have tried that is able to be done on your own, from home, no money required.
Do you have a system that you use for pacing?