One of the best ideas I’ve come across about managing chronic pain/chronic illness is the Not To Do List. I read about it in one of Toni Bernhardt’s books about living well with chronic conditions, but I can’t remember which one. (You can view all her books here. They are all lovely.) The gist of the idea, as you can probably tell from the name, is to create a list of things you should not do because you know they will exacerbate your condition.
With the increased downtime from my active, pet sitting job thanks to quarantine, my body has been feeling less intense pain (yeah, that fact is another story to consider). Whenever I go through periods of less chronic pain intensity, the temptation to started doing inevitably arises. I used to be terrible about exacerbating my condition, but my body has knocked me over the head enough times that I am much more mindful these days.
Still, I found myself getting careless lately. I’ve been tackling some projects around the house, sitting upright more, and not always doing my stretching as often as I should. Last weekend, my husband and I went to a remote park to get out of the city. I laid down on the ground, using some pillows and a yoga mat over a blanket for some cushioning. I laid there for a good 30 minutes or so, not really thinking about my body. Then I tried to roll on my side in preparation to sit up. A major muscle spasm froze me in place in an awkward half sit, half roll while my husband tried to figure out how to help me. With his assistance, I eventually pushed through the pain to get into a position to stretch the angry muscles gently until they calmed down enough I could get up. It took two days of rest and gentle movement to get back to a more manageable level of pain. And taking muscle relaxers, which pretty much make me useless for anything but sleep and low-level brain function.
I realized I need to get back on track, so here is my latest Not To Do List with some helpful pointers on what to do:
- Do not sit upright for more than two or three hours a day, but do take breaks every 20 minutes or so to stand and stretch.
- Do not walk more than 5000 steps a day.
- Do not walk more than 15 minutes at a time and don’t do this long of a walk every day. Remember to wear the SI belt for added support.
- Do not stand in place for longer than a few minutes. Do not stand and move around for longer than 15 minutes without a rest period.
- Do not lie on hard surfaces. The ground counts as a hard surface.
- Do not do more than two household tasks per day and nothing that takes longer than a few minutes at a time.
- Do not lift or carry anything over 10 pounds. Not even my heavier cats.
- Do not bend over more than a few times a day. Practice squatting.
- Do not skip doing PT exercises.
- Do not feel guilty because you cannot do more.