Ways to manage daily tasks with pain or discomfort

Posted on 2018-05-12

As an Occupational Therapist for 17 years working in the field of rehabilitation I frequently help people in pain and discomfort get back to doing their everyday activities. Being in constant pain and discomfort can be very disheartening. It can distract you from being able to focus on everyday activities. It takes over your thoughts, affects mood, function, and mobility. There are many causes of pain such as injury, illness that can affect mobility and function. I wanted to share 4 strategies that I have found to be successful to manage daily tasks with pain or discomfort.

  1. Change the way you complete tasks and chores

    A lot of the time when doing chores around the house we get stuck in a routine. This routine isn’t always the best for us when we develop injuries or reduced mobility. Rather than doing the same thing over and over again and living in pain. Try changing your approach to chores. Use a different hand, try the activity in sitting or perching on a stool, use an aid to help you. I will give an example, cleaning the bathtub: How do you clean your bathtub now? Looking up, reaching far left/right, bending down. Do you feel it the next day? Try these tips:

    • Use a shower spray after using the tub to decrease the need to scrub hard, I like this one.
    • Use a long-handled tub scrub to prevent kneeling, bending or crouching, I like this one, you can find it here or at Shoppers Home Health
    • Keep your neck and back in alignment by cleaning section by section rather than twisting and reaching
    • If you can kneel use knee pad to increase comfort.
  2. Break the task down into manageable sections

    Sometimes tasks such as tidying the home, sorting through paperwork can seem overwhelming and unmanageable. Particularly for people in pain and/or discomfort. The pain can distract you from being able to focus on the task, or stop you from being able to finish the task. The amount of activity that you can tolerate will likely be different from somebody else, it may also fluctuate for you from day to day. I have given some examples below, however, you will need to adapt the example depending on your abilities and tolerances on the day. As you practice you may find you can do a little bit more over time.

    Vacuuming: How are you currently managing this task? Getting help, do you want to be able to do it on your own? Think about what your ability to do the job is now, start with that then progress from there.

    • Try using a lightweight vacuum; there are many different models out there, I find the type that has the motor and weight close to the floor (as opposed to the handle) is easier to use and puts less stress through the back and shoulder.
    • Start with one section at a time, e.g., kitchen area, take a rest, then the living room (depending on how large it is you may want to break this down into sections too)
    • What is your goal, a thorough vacuum or a quick once over? If it is a detailed vacuum, then you may want to move chairs out of the way first, take a break, then vacuum under the table.
    • Use a mobility aid; The BiKube insert link and a picture of vacuuming with the BiKube is an excellent device that can support you, help you glide around the room while cleaning the floor using your lightweight vacuum
  3. Stay in the moment

    While doing activities such as vacuuming or sweeping, be mindful of your body, your posture and how you are feeling. It is important to aware of your posture, as poor postures can exacerbate pain. Often when in pain we compensate for it by using our bodies in a different way. Try to maintain a neutral posture, think about

    • Lengthening the spine
    • Holding your core (stomach) muscles
    • Are you poking your head and neck forward, or twisting it at an odd angle?
    • Are you favoring putting weight through the less painful leg?
    • What are your shoulders doing? Are you tensing up as you are doing the activity?

    By focusing on your posture get a sense of how it is feeling, this will help you to gauge when you need to take a break and when to keep going or even whether it is a good day to start the activity. Focus on your breath to help you relax – breathing in for 2-4 counts then out for 2-4 counts. Focus on relaxing the tense body part as you complete the task. How else can you relax? Perhaps sing to yourself, or out loud while doing the task, listen to music through headphones.

  4. Find ways to support yourself

    Some days are going to be more comfortable than others when completing day to day tasks and staying active. There will be times when you need physical support. While the term mobility device often makes a lot of patients cringe they aren’t all bad and do provide much-needed support on more challenging days.

    One device that I recommend and work with is The BiKube because it is attractive AND designed for function by allowing the user to offload the weight from their legs while completing activities such as laundry, cooking, reaching for items in cupboards.

    You can learn more about the BiKube and how to improve your mobility by visiting the website or joining their facebook group BiKube – Staying active with reduced mobility issues.

Staying active is important and necessary to help improve mood, feel a sense of accomplishment, keep you strong, healthy and moving for longer.

Written by
Amanda Richmond
Occupational Therapist