What's at Risk if You Don't Pace Your Activities?
It's probably the one bit of advice for living well with arthritis that is repeated over and over. The advice -- to pace your activities -- is easy to understand but so hard to follow for people with arthritis. Joint protection principles include pacing activities as an important concept. You are taught to adjust your activity level according to your pain level.
By not pacing your activities, you risk greater pain, a flare-up of arthritis symptoms, overwhelming fatigue, and a sense that you are truly disabled. While the advice is clearly logical, why is it so hard to follow?
Forum Users Share Thoughts on Pacing Activities
We asked this question on our forum: Do you find you have a difficult time pacing your activities? Why do you think it's so hard? Or, do you have an easy time with pacing activities and how did you conquer the concept? A sampling of the response follows:
"I am having a very hard time pacing my activities. The problem is that I hardly ever feel fatigue or pain until afterwards. I keep on going and going and I pay for it afterwards. Especially at work this is how it goes. I am a perfectionist who totally focuses on his tasks and feels fine with it -- until it hits me during weekends or holidays. This is a big problem for me and the main reason why I am sick at home now. I need to learn how to listen to my body, but how? Maybe it has something to do with an ongoing sort of denial?"
"Learning to pace yourself comes with experience of overdoing -- and a lot of it. It's learning to understand your symptoms and how different activities affect them. Through the years you learn to prioritize, you learn to say no, you learn to rest, but then there are other times you say the heck with it and do what you want -- let the resulting pain come. It was only in the last few years of working that I finally realized I couldn't put in the hours anymore and balancing is a lot easier now that I don't work on a full time basis."
"I am learning how to pace myself. Most successful has been with domestic duties. I set a time limit. When that time is up I stop, no matter what is unfinished. The not-so-good has been pacing myself when I go out with friends. I find I way over do. Then when I get home I am totally exhausted. This usually happens on Mondays when I have worked all night and then meet a friend afterwards. I think it is hard for me to pace myself with friends because I live alone and work midnight shift. This makes for a solitary life. So when I do get a chance to be with friends/other people I overdo. This part of pacing I need to work on."
"Pacing myself has been the single most difficult thing about having rheumatoid arthritis for me. For a long time it was because of denial. Now I have a pretty good idea of what will and won't aggravate things. Sometimes I try things and am pleasantly surprised and sometimes I pay for pushing too hard. At times it's with full knowledge that I will pay for it, a choice I make because I refuse to sit on the side lines playing it safe while life passes me by. Probably being stubborn and strong-willed has a lot to do with it too. It's tough. I choose to push to just below my pain threshold. I'm not sure that's right, but that's me."
Food for Thought
Most people with arthritis agree that pacing activities is a necessity -- but still very hard to do. A strong will to not be held back seems to motivate many people to push beyond their limits.
Clearly, you can conclude from the comments that people with arthritis must learn on their own and in their own way that pacing activities is a must-do. Join the discussion and share your perspective on our forum.