The Remarkable Link Between Pacing & Better Fibromyalgia Management

Fibromyalgia can quickly sap vitality and energy when you do too much or have a lot on your mind. You can feel like that little rabbit on the advertisements whose battery is gradually running down until only a flicker of charge remains. The good news is there’s an antidote to running out of energy, and it’s … (drum roll) … pacing.

The pacing referred to here is not what an expectant partner might do in the maternity suite while waiting for a new baby to arrive, in fact it’s quite the opposite. Pacing for pain management and energy retention can be easily learned, and deserves to become one of the most used tools you will have in your fibromyalgia coping toolkit.

In the climate events era in which we live, it’s normal to talk about wise energy consumption, and that’s really what pacing is all about – using what energy you have wisely. It’s about adjusting your energy dial from Maximum to Energy Saving mode, and in graduating your activity so that you can incrementally do more, without pain or fatigue repercussions.

When you think about it, successful rehabilitation following an illness or accident always incorporates a gradual reintroduction of exercise and workload.

Pacing also teaches us what not to do. If I wake one morning feeling pain-free, fresh and wonderful, and decide, Righto! I’ll get stuck into the spring cleaning and gardening, and I’ll go through that box of stuff in the garage, and I’ll make a cake, the next day will most likely find me in bed feeling utterly lousy, completely exhausted, with possibly a major pain flare.

For several days the ability for any work or activity is on hold, followed by a loss of momentum in the quest to do a little each day. That one day of frantic activity may have given me a cake, but it will have set my progress back immeasurably. It may also have dangerously dented my confidence in achieving progress.

Knowledge is power

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It’s important to understand that pacing is not just about physical activity. Pacing is also about adjusting mental and emotional activity. When used as a normal part of every day, pacing can relegate extreme fatigue and the aggravation of symptoms following any sort of activity to ancient history.

The first step is in understanding the demands placed upon you and when they are likely to occur. Every typical day delivers periods of low, medium, and high demand.

When we use pacing, we can avoid the crashes that can occur during or following the medium and high demand times. If, for example, we decide that evenings are high demand times, then we might prepare the evening meal in the morning in a slow cooker, so that at dinnertime, we simply serve the meal and clean up afterwards.

If we know we have a major event to attend at the weekend, we can adjust our activity and rest periods prior to and following the event. Pacing can gently move us forward to growing our capacity for a little more exercise, a little more workload or responsibility, a little clearer mental and emotional tolerance.

This moving forward to gradually increase activity will pay enormous dividends.

Unlike an old t-shirt that fades from wear and laundering, our bodies can get stronger with use. Scientific research shows us that our bones and muscles are actually stronger once they have repaired following an injury. Likewise, marathon runners have been found to have stronger joints and cartilage after running. We should never underestimate this wonderful machine that is our body.

The first day you start a pacing program will be day 1 in your plan to reduce setbacks, to have more control over symptoms, to improve your condition, to achieving more most days, and to building a stronger and more resilient body and mind. Initially, you will learn how to establish a sustainable baseline of activity. For instance, you may know that you can walk for 2 minutes on a flat surface with no ill effect. This will become your baseline for exercise. Over the next few days, you might walk for 3 minutes each day, and then have a day of rest. The one thing you will never be interested in achieving is your PB or personal best.

Pacing is not a competition with anyone else, or with yourself. Pacing is an easy, sustained, progressive self-help technique.