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Exercise: Pain and your Limits

One of the main pitfalls of chronic pain is that we often do too much, or too little. In short, staying within your physical limits can be difficult. Too little activity can make your condition worse, too much effort can make your body endure too much. Both pitfalls often lead to more pain in the long run.

Part 1 - Preparation

This week's exercise consists of two parts. First, make a list of activities you like to do. Grab a pen and paper before you read on. Draw up a list of activities that:

  •    You like to do now
  •    The activities you did before but not (often) anymore
  •    Activities you've always wanted to do, but haven't done yet

Part 2 - Revise your limits

Now that you have this list, choose one to three activities that you would like to focus on. Make sure there is at least one physical activity.

Example: you may choose reading and walking. Reading often doesn't work well in terms of concentration, and you always liked to walk, but less in recent years.

For each activity, do the following

  1. Determine how long or how much you can do the activity now without problems. For example, you will be able to read for 5 minutes in a concentrated way and walk for 10 minutes. Not sure? Then do each activity for 4 days in a row and keep a record of how long you can do it without problems.
  2. Decide how much you want to expand each day. For example, walk for 2 minutes longer every day and read for 2 minutes more. Start doing your chosen activities with the new limits. If you notice that it is going too fast, or too slow, adjust it - but start with small steps!
  3. Agree with yourself: if you have a good day, you may do a little more - but don't do much more all of a sudden! If the day is bad, you may do a little less, but well within your physical limits.

Because chronic pain often does not mean there is physical damage in the body, it is important to be active even on days when you have more problems. If necessary, discuss with your physiotherapist how you can do this under supervision.

Exercise: Pain and your Limits