Why is routine helpful in chronic pain management?


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?

COVID-19 Update

We hope you are safe and well, and coping with all the changes to our lives that have occurred due to COVID-19.  We would like to let you know that we are here to support you, and are continuing to provide occupational therapy services. We have temporarily ceased any clinic-based consultations in order to reduce any risk to our clients and our staff. All of our staff are now currently working from home.  Our preference is to provide OT services as much as possible via telehealth.  This means either telephone or online consultations.  This is the best way to still provide services and remove any risk of infection.  We understand however, that for some of our clients, this is neither suitable or possible. Where telehealth is not appropriate, and an occupational therapy service is essential, we are continuing to see clients in their homes or in the community. We do this with all the physical distancing and hygiene precautions in place.
We will contact you prior to your appointment to see if it is possible for us to provide your service via telehealth. If it is not possible and we are planning to come to your home, please let us know if you or anyone in your household are unwell with any symptoms of COVID-19, such as a fever, cough or sore throat.
We care very much about our clients and staff and we would like to reassure you that we are doing our best to keep surfaces and our hands clean and will maintain a safe physical distance during home visits.  This means we will not shake hands when we greet you, and will only use direct hands on contact when essential.

If you are well and we come to see you at home or in the community, please:

  • Maintain a 1.5 metre physical distance where possible.
  • Wash or sanitise your hands before and after appointments where possible.
  • If you need to cough or sneeze, please use a tissue and dispose of it or cover your mouth and nose with your elbow.
  • Refrain from having additional family members/carers with you if possible as the less people in contact with everyone the better.
We know that at this time some of our clients may be finding it particularly difficult with increased isolation, anxiety or a reduction in their usual supports and services.  We would like you to know that if this applies to you, please reach out to us to ask for help, and we will try our best to help you access the support you need.

We sincerely appreciate your understanding of the above. If you have any queries, please do not hesitate to contact us.  

Best Wishes
The Lifeworks Occupational Therapy Team