“Working through the pain” is not recommended for people with a history of back &/or neck pain, as this can result in a flare-up and the need for prolonged rest, taking you further away from life for several days.  Once the pain decreases, you may then feel the need to “catch up” and the cycle continues.  Use time as an indicator of how much you can safely do at one time vs. pain.  In other words, you need to establish your baseline based on the following:

  1. Identify a task that typically increases your pain – such as gardening or yardwork – or something you plan to do that you fear may increase your pain.
  2. Estimate how long you can safely do the activity before a flare-up may occur on both a good day and a bad day.  That is your “active” time”, which should be at least 15 minutes less than the time it typically takes for the pain to occur.
  3. Estimate how long you will need to rest before becoming active again to avoid flare-ups (this is your “rest” time).
  4. Record these times and be mindful about the time you allocate.  Adjust your schedule as needed.
  5. You should be able to complete the activity for one week without a flare-up before increasing the duration of your “active time”.
  6. Remember it is normal to experience increased symptoms when starting a new activity, but it is important to stop before symptoms would be difficult to control.

Here’s an example of activity pacing with regards to playing golf:

  1. Begin with hitting a bucket or two of balls at a driving range.  Monitor how you feel for 1 – 2 days following.
  2. If all goes well, progress to playing 9 holes of golf on a short (executive) course.  Again, monitor how you feel for 1 – 2 days following.
  3. If all goes well, progress to 18 holes.
  4. Most importantly, have fun!