In a culture that celebrates efficiency, maximum productivity, and pushing limits, doing less is a radical concept. But Penney Cowan, executive director of the association, believes it is crucial.
For many, stopping an activity before it's done may result in a complete reappraisal of how they see themselves.
Andrea Kramer, a back-pain and fibromyalgia sufferer from Montgomery Village, Md., describes herself as "a doer, a pusher, a runner." But as the reality of her condition set in, she had to adjust to the fact that she "couldn't do laundry, dishes, lifting, washing a carit depended upon the level of pain," says Kramer.
The lurking tendency to overdo it
One problem is that even if pain temporarily sidelines the superachiever, that person's underlying mindset doesn't disappear. It just lays low until pain takes a brief vacation.
Then on a good day the go-getter wants to do as much as possible. "You push, you don't pace, you overexert," says Cowan.
Dan Clauw, MD, director of the Chronic Pain and Fatigue Research Center at the University of Michigan, sees this ebb-and-flow pattern all the time and says it's not good for pain management.
"I would suggest that people do the same amount of activity every day so they can even out their peaks and valleys," says Dr. Clauw.
Too many bad days in a row can leave a lot undone, making a pain sufferer feel overwhelmed and melancholy. Cowan says chronic pain demands a clear eye for priorities, which is why she suggests that the pain patient make lists. "Set realistic goals for yourself," she says, "and narrow them down to a point where you're not going to set yourself up for failure."