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Pain: Chronic Pain: How to Pace Your Energy  Previous Next

Chronic Pain: How to Pace Your Energy

by: Ann C. Jorn, Ph.D.

Pacing is a concept that pain specialists, especially and pain psychologists instruct every client in suffering from chronic pain. It is a set of strategies I use myself in dealing with my rheumatoid arthritis. Now I frequently tell my clients that in a way I was lucky with my pain because I have had since I was three years old. So, I have never known a life without pain. Of course, it has gotten worse over the years and I have found that I use pacing much more as a result. Most people in my experience tend to develop chronic pain issues mid life. The adjustment from a active life style without pain to one with pain is difficult to say the least. One of the most difficult aspects is learning that while your head may still say go, go go, your body has something completely different in mind. People often become disheartened and consumed by what they cannot do. Or they may get into a roller coaster of over activity and under activity. They have increased activity which lays them out for several days afterward.

Pacing is designed to stop this pattern. Pacing at core is really about effectively using your energy with the goal of having as much active time as possible. In order for people to understand pacing they need to understand when their pain is beginning to flare. Frequently people wait too long. In other words, the pain is really past the point of just flaring and has now taken off. So the first way I teach people how to assess their pain is for them to use a timer and every 30 minutes check in with their pain level to see how high it is. I have them do this for a few days and have them mark down each time on a scale from 0 - no pain to 10 - worst pain ever felt their pain level. I also have them note what they were doing. So a picture begins to develop helping the client link the nature of an activity and their pain experience. As a result they begin to learn that after a certain amount of time they need to rest so that the pain does not get out of control.

Dr. Jorn is a pain psychologist and expert in rational emotive behavior therapy. For helpful information on pain management go to

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