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What is the Spoon Theory??


The spoon theory is a theory that is relatively new in my world with chronic pain.  My bike accident happened in the nineties and my chronic pain began shortly after and ‘back then’ we did not have the resources such as the internet like we do now.  Chronic pain was not discussed and it took me ten years to even be diagnosed with chronic pain.  I had surgeries, medications, and more procedures than I can count because most doctors were certain they could cure the pain I was in.  It wasn’t hard to figure out: I fell off of my bike at a young age, had brain surgery to remove blood clots, and broke bones that never healed correctly.  It made sense to most doctors and specialists as to why I was in pain twenty four seven.   Each professional I saw truly believed he or she could cure my pain.   However, it took ten years of this searching to finally hear the term: “chronic pain.”  I hated that term when I first heard it from the head Neurologist at the Mayo Clinic but I am now forever grateful for he saved my life.  I live with chronic pain daily but know how to manage it without it controlling my life.  In a way I have been practicing the ‘spoon theory’ for years but had never heard of the term until a couple years ago.

Recently, I have been asked by a couple people to explain what  a ‘spoonie’ is: someone who practices the spoon theory.  I will explain it as well as I can.  People with chronic pain should practice what I call moderation.  We have to plan our days in ways those without this invisible illness do not.  I should re-phrase that: we do not have to do anything.  I choose to practice moderation in order to manage my pain naturally and not allow it to control my life.   Over the years having practiced the tools I need to manage pain without a cure, I have been able to do more and more without pain escalating the next day but some days I do over do it and my body/mind pay the price.  The spoon theory goes as follows: let us say a person with chronic pain has ten spoons for the day.  He or she must decide how to utilize their spoons in order to manage pain.  One spoon may be used to shower, one spoon to make breakfast and pack lunches for their children, one spoon to clean the bathroom, one spoon to go food shopping, one spoon to do the laundry, one spoon to take their kids to the playground, one spoon to exercise, one spoon to make phone calls or pay bills, one spoon to give their kids a bath them BAM only one spoon left!!!!!  How will this person decide to use their very last spoon for the day?   Even writing out the spoon theory stresses me out.  I do not know how I would choose to use my very last spoon for the day!  I do not use the spoon theory for many reasons but I totally understand and agree with the concepts behind the theory.

My main technique in managing chronic pain is to not think about the pain.  Don’t stop reading please.   This took me years upon years to conquer: not thinking about pain as I once did.  If I used the spoon theory I would personally go crazy and my focus would be solely on pain.  Instead I make a list of things I need to do for the day and take breaks when needed.  I always exercise in the morning but I listen to my body: some days I know I need to go easy and just do a stretching/yoga session and some days I can go full out kickboxing mode.  As a mother, which is one of the best distractions from pain I am unable to plan everything as I once did pre-family life.  It is not just about myself anymore.  However, if I am not feeling well it is difficult to be the mother my daughter deserves.  Therefore, I do practice moderation and am usually in bed by seven or eight pm watching a favorite show or reading.  In some ways I practice the spoon theory but I just have a different term for it.


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