Pacing: a strategy for pain management

From the Winter edition of InTouch Magazine.

person holding sparklerIn order to live an active and fulfilling life, people need to remain as physically active as possible. However, this can be challenging for people with ongoing pain as they might find that certain activities can make their pain worse. As a result, they tend to rest more and are less active. While rest can help relieve pain, long periods of rest or inactivity can lead to physical deconditioning – the gradual loss of strength and fitness that comes from reduced activity levels.  

As the body loses strength and fitness it is more difficult to do normal activities. Maintaining fitness and strength does not mean you have to join a gym. Just keeping up with usual daily activities can help you to avoid deconditioning. If doing this is already difficult it can be helpful to use a strategy called pacing.  

Pacing involves breaking large tasks into smaller chunks and taking regular, short breaks before you overdo it. For example, if you haven’t been able to wash all the dishes because the pain gets too severe, you may do the following:  

  1. Wash the glasses  
  2. Take a five-minute break
  3. Wash the plates and bowls
  4. Take another five-minute break
  5. Go back to the sink and finish the job.  

During breaks you may need to lie down, or you may be able to do a different activity, such as reading the newspaper or checking your email. Pacing may seem frustrating at times because you might feel that it takes a long time to get things done. However, over time pacing will help you to maintain a regular level of daily activity and can help minimise your pain and the need to take long rests

MSL provides a range of services to people with MS, including specialist health care and advice, education programs and resources, and access to physical activity groups. Visit ms.org.au to locate your local MS centre, or phone MS Connect on 1800 042 138. If you have concerns around pain, talk to your MS nurse or GP.



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