Breaking the Pain Cycle

The chronic pain cycle can be frustrating and confusing. Although some with chronic pain experience about the same amount of pain each day, many experience varying degrees of pain. Perhaps some days feel decent and other days feel absolutely horrendous where you can’t even get out of bed. Not only does this cause exhaustion but it can also be quite confusing. Why do I experience worse pain on some days rather than others? Am I doing something wrong?

You may have entered the chronic pain cycle. What is this cycle? It is when someone with chronic pain feels more pain relief than usual. They then become excited that today will be a “good” day and are determined to accomplish whatever they can as long as their pain holds out. Unfortunately, they tend to push themselves too hard because they feel pressure to finish tasks including housework, errands, social engagements etc. This amount of over-activity pushes them into a flare up and now that the flare up has begun they must become significantly less active. Once the flare-up has calmed down they again want to take advantage of feeling less pain and they head down the same path over and over again. Repeating this cycle can oftentimes lead to significant loss of lean mass, muscle strength and flexibility (i.e. "I'm so stiff when I get out of bed or when I try to pick up my groceries")

If you are in this pain cycle it is time to break free! Although having chronic pain may at times limit the degree of your activity, it does not mean that you have to live on the extremes. Even with chronic pain, a balanced life is still possible. Here are three steps to take if you find yourself living in this spiral:

1.       Improve your overall strength and conditioning

2.       Learn how to pace your activity level including housework and family commitments

3.       Even if you’re having a good pain day, learn how to say “no” to over-activity

I’ll tell you a secret: the last step I mentioned can be the hardest. You mean, say no? But my family needs me! I have too much to do! I’ve just got to push through it! Well, if that strategy was working you wouldn’t be in the pain cycle. Time to try something different :)

Come talk to us at SPARC. Our team loves to help you find balance and regain control of your pain as well as your life.