Why is routine helpful in chronic pain management?

JacquiSelf

Written by Jacqui Self
(Senior Occupational Therapist).
15th April, 2020.

The current pandemic crisis has highlighted to all of us the importance of maintaining or adapting life’s routines, and the messages we are receiving from all fronts to maintain our overall health and wellbeing is to ensure we have a“ROUTINE” that includes regular sleep patterns, regular meal times, regular exercise and strict work hours (when working from home) and not forgetting the importance of social contact via the many technology platforms we have available to us.

Routines provide an anchor to base all of our daily activities around. Many words come to mind when I think of routine, including: purpose, safety, predictability, productivity and habit.

Occupational Therapists at Lifeworks OT work with individuals experiencing chronic pain, and one of the areas we consider in our intervention is the person’s ROUTINE in all aspects of life including;

  • Self Care
  • Work/play
  • Leisure
  • Social and emotional

Many people with chronic pain have gone from engaging in active well-established routines that include all of the above aspects of life, to experiencing a gradual withdrawal due to the very real and very persistent pain experience.

When we don’t get good quality sleep, we struggle to get out of bed and find showering is difficult because general movement hurts.

We can’t stand long enough to cook a nutritious meal so resort to prepacked meals.

We can hardly move so how can we go for a walk or run, like we used to, and so it goes on!!

If this applies to you, then occupational therapy can help you re-establish your routines based on your current level of functioning.

We work with people to develop confidence in setting goals and establishing routines to provide an anchor to base their lives around. This may include things such as accepting your body for where it is at the time, accepting your energy levels and being kind to yourself.

We do this by helping you create a visual daily schedule that ideally should be placed where you will see it regularly, i.e. the fridge, or any other prominent place (please remember it is to be used to provide gentle reminders and encouragement, not reminders of what you can’t do).

The schedule/timetable may include (try not to overload though):

Wake up and go to bed times. Research has demonstrated that maintaining a regular sleep routine significantly aids our general health and wellbeing.

  • Enter all the meal and breaks required during the day. If we don’t specify these they can be easily forgotten about and puts extra stress on our bodies and minds. Again we know from research that our bodies and minds work much more efficiently with regular, healthy meals.
  • Specific tasks that you have to or want to ensure you do, and can include having a shower, stretching, getting breakfast ready for your children before school, shopping, light housework etc.
  • Leisure/social times also need to be included to provide a prompt to arrange to meet friends or family for a catch up. Very important for our emotional wellbeing.

Your schedule is yours and can be adjusted to suit your personal needs. For many people it will be important that you know and understand your own body and your own limits when deciding on specific time frames within the schedule.
And very importantly it is not set in stone and there are no penalties if not adhered to.

If you have any questions or would like to spend time talking with one of our Therapists we will be happy to help.

Why is routine helpful in chronic pain management?