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Survey of activity pacing across healthcare professionals informs a new activity pacing framework for chronic pain/fatigue

Antcliff, Deborah; Keenan, Anne‐Maree; Keeley, Philip; Woby, Steve; McGowan, Linda

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Anne‐Maree Keenan

Philip Keeley

Steve Woby

Linda McGowan


INTRODUCTION: Activity pacing is considered a key component of rehabilitation programmes for chronic pain/fatigue. However, there are no widely used guidelines to standardize how pacing is delivered. This study aimed to undertake the first stage in developing a comprehensive evidence-based activity pacing framework. METHODS: An online survey across pain/fatigue services in English National Health Service trusts explored healthcare professionals' opinions on the types/uses of pacing, aims, facets and perceived effects. Data were analysed using descriptive statistics for closed-ended questions and thematic analysis for open-ended questions. Purposeful recruitment with a snowball effect engaged 92 healthcare professionals (physiotherapists, occupational therapists, nurses, doctors and psychologists) to the study. RESULTS: Pacing was highly utilized, with perceived long-term benefits for patients (n = 83, 90.2% healthcare professionals instructed pacing). The most endorsed aim of pacing was "achievement of meaningful activities" (24.5% of ranked votes). The least endorsed aim was "to conserve energy" (0.1% of ranked votes). The most frequently supported facet of pacing was "breaking down tasks" (n = 91, 98.9%). The least supported facet was "stopping activities when symptoms increase" (n = 6, 6.5%). Thematic analysis showed recurring themes that pacing involved flexibility and sense of choice. CONCLUSIONS: Pacing is a multidimensional coping strategy and complex behaviour. The message is clear that pacing should enable increases in meaningful activities, as opposed to attempting to avoid symptoms. The survey findings have informed the development of an activity pacing framework to guide healthcare professionals on the multiple components of pacing. This will help to standardize and optimize treatments for chronic pain/fatigue and enable future investigations.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Jul 5, 2019
Publication Date Aug 20, 2019
Publicly Available Date May 30, 2023
Journal Musculoskeletal Care
Print ISSN 1478-2189
Publisher Wiley
Pages 335 - 345
Publisher URL


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