Pacing Your Activities 

This explains how to pace your activities. It describes how you can
manage your activities around the house, at work or in your social life, without
making your pain worse.

Non-paced activity
Most people base what they do and how much they do on how they feel.


A common thing with long-term pain is to do more on a good day, when the
pain feels better, often trying to catch-up and very often overdoing it. This
increases the pain, so the next day they can do very little. This is called
activity cycling.

Pacing is breaking down tasks and activities so that you can do them without
making your pain worse. Pacing means keeping to a regular amount of
activity each day. This is done by basing what you do on a plan, not on how
you feel. By keeping activities at a steady rate with regular rest periods or
breaks you can continue to do things every day.

How to Pace Your Activities
First you need to work out what your limits are for some basic activities, so
you can keep your activity levels much the same on good and bad days.
These time limits will be different for everyone.


Setting your baselines:
Most activities involve either sitting, standing or walking.


1. Think about how long you can do each of these activities on a good
day and then think about how long you can do them on a bad day
2. Set your own time limits for each activity by identifying a time which
falls between the two

  Good day  Bad day Time Limits
Sitting 30 mins 5 mins 15 mins
Standing 15 mins 3 mins 10 mins
Walking 10 mins 2 mins 5 mins

This means the person would sit stand and walk using these time limits,
taking a small rest or changing their position at the end of each time limit.


Your time limits:
When you have set your own time limits you will want to try them out for a few
days to see if they are right. You may find you need to change them. If your
time limits are appropriate you shouldn’t feel you are pushing through the


Keep to these activity levels:
Pacing means sticking to these time limits whether you feel good or bad and
not overdoing it on a good day or doing very little on a bad day. Use a timer if
this helps. When it rings, stop what you are doing and do something else in a
different position.


Examples of Pacing
1. Mr Roberts time limit for sitting is 15 minutes. He wants to watch a film
on T.V. lasting one and a half hours. Mr Roberts could watch the film
without making his pain worse, by pacing himself using his time limit
and changing his position. He could:
· Get up and walk around every 15 minutes during the adverts,
sitting down again when the film re-starts
· Stand beside the chair every 15 minutes for 2-3 minutes and
then sit down
· Use a mixture of standing, walking and lying on the sofa in a
different position according to his time limits


2. Mrs Jones’ time limit for walking is 10 minutes. She would like to be
able to walk to the shop which is 20 minutes away. She plans to walk
to the shop and home again using pacing. She could:
·  Walk for 10 minutes
·  Sit down a nd rest on a bench or wall for 2-3 minutes
·  Walk another 10 minutes to the shop
·  Stand outside the shop for a minute
·  Stand and walk inside the shop for about 5 minutes
·  Rest outside the shop for 2 -3 minutes on a wall or
·  Walk home 10 minutes at a time with a sit down half



Using pacing Mrs Jones can walk to and from the shop without making
her pain worse. By doing this on a regular basis she can improve her
fitness and her stamina so that she may have to take fewer rest breaks
and be able to walk for longer.



Prioritising, Planning and Pacing
There are many things to do and demands placed on all of us. Pain will limit
what you can do and how much you can do.

Prioritising what you do means choosing the most important things that need
to be done. What has got to be done today or this week and what could wait until
tomorrow or next week.


This can include giving some tasks to others.


Once you have prioritised what you need or want to do, then you need to
make a plan. Make sure that the activities you find more difficult are spread
out, not done all in one go. Make sure your plan includes time for an activity
you enjoy.


Find your time limits and stick to them, even if you feel like doing more or
don’t feel like doing anything. Pacing yourself means you remain in control of
the pain and your activities
Reasons to use Pacing
By using these principles your energy and activity tolerance can last long
enough to complete a task.
In addition you will

  • Conserve energy
  • Increase your activity tolerance over time
  • Be distracted from pain
  • Gain confidence to tackle tasks
  • Have energy left over for an enjoyable activity
  • Prioritise activities
  • Be able to plan ahead


Dr. Claire Winchurst, Consultant Clinical Psychologist
Ms. Caroline Waterstone, Specialist Physiotherapist


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