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Managing activities (pacing)

When you have persistent pain, managing everyday activities can be very difficult. There can be traps to fall into; pushing through pain, avoiding activity, or falling into a ‘boom and bust’ cycle

Not surprisingly, lots of people do more when they feel better and less when they feel worse. It’s natural to try to catch up with things when you have a good day. The problem with this is that on a good day you do too much and end up with a bad day. The pain is in control.

Pacing is about balancing the day so that it is divided into chunks of activity, with changes in posture or rests in between. Pacing helps avoid "overdoing it", both physically and emotionally. It will help you manage the day better and, by keeping to your planned target, means that you will be more in control of how much you do. The aim is to maintain an even level of activity over the day and week.


Be kind to yourself, change takes time

Sometimes it doesn’t work, and that’s okay! We can learn from why something did not go to plan, and make changes for the next time.

 You will know your approach is working when:

  • Your activity levels become more stable and start to increase
  • Your confidence to do activities begins to improve
  • You find yourself doing activities that you haven’t been able to do for quite a while
  • You feel confident to try out new activities


Everyday Activities



What has got to be done today or this week and what could wait until tomorrow or next week?

Once you have prioritised what has got to be done, it may help to make a plan. Do one important activity on each day at most, to begin with.  Make sure you plan to take regular breaks and don’t set your targets too high.

Be aware of signs that you may be overdoing it. It is a good idea to change posture regularly. Try to do the same level of activity every day to avoid getting into the ‘boom and bust’ cycle. Think ‘Little and Often’.  Remember to change position regularly. Vary your activities between standing, sitting and walking and take rest breaks. Be aware of sensations such as fatigue or tension that may be an indication that you may need to change your position.


Ask yourself if you could change the equipment you are using to make it easier. Consider using long handled tools or smaller, light weight models of lawn mowers and vacuum cleaners.
Make use of labour-saving devices such as food processors, slow cookers.

 Ask for help if you need to and accept the help that is given!

 Research with people who have persistent pain suggests that the greatest long-term benefits are felt by those who keep practising relaxation, pacing and a fitness programme


© Wye valley NHS Trust 2018