Support Your Spouse Around the House: Managing Housework With Chronic Pain
March 12, 2018
When you have chronic pain, even the most routine tasks can be difficult to manage. Running errands, cleaning the house—all those everyday chores—can overtax you if you suffer from chronic, debilitating pain.
Yet these same everyday tasks are often what makes life feel normal.
Of course, no one loves to do chores, but when you can't manage them like you used to, the inability can feel isolating.
This is no less true when you watch your spouse managing the chores you used to help with. You may feel guilty that they're taking on twice as much work.
Honey Hull, an Advance Practice Registered Nurse at Pain Treatment Centers of America in Little Rock, Arkansas, wants you to know you're not alone in feeling that way.
She offers three pieces of advice to help you rethink how you can offer support around the house and, in turn, support your partner or spouse.
1. Set Time Limits for Yourself
"If you can only do tasks for 30 minutes," Honey Hull advises, "keep it to 30 minutes."
You and your spouse can set small pockets of time aside to manage chores or go to the grocery store. Before you begin, know clearly—either in your mind or write it down in a list—what you want to accomplish within that timeframe. This will keep you on task and help you achieve a lot even in a half hour.
Hull concedes that sometimes these limits can be frustrating, as you may feel that you need more than 30 minutes to get the job done. But by performing tasks in small increments of time, you give yourself a goal to achieve while not exerting yourself too much.
"I always try to emphasize moderation," she says.
2. Modify How You Work
Hull speaks with patients all the time who want to help around the house. But vacuuming, sweeping, mopping, or doing the dishes can put a lot of strain on them, especially if their chronic pain is in the lower back.
In response, she advises modifying how you manage certain tasks and find ways to alleviate that strain.
One example is when it comes to doing the dishes.
When standing at the sink, grab a stool or a chair and rest your knee on it.
Shifting some of your weight onto the stool or chair can take a lot of the strain off your lower back and make it easier to stand at the sink for a longer period than you would be able to manage otherwise.
She's tried this herself and has found it makes a remarkable difference.
3. Know Your Limits
In her experience working with patients with chronic pain, Honey Hull sees patients who may fear what might happen to their relationship if their chronic pain prevents them from supporting their spouse like they used to.
Fear can make us do rash things and push ourselves past safety.
People react to stress uniquely, and some may overcompensate and push themselves past endurance, resulting in more pain.
Knowing your limits is extremely important. But perhaps even more important, thinks Hull, is speaking honestly about those limits to your spouse.
The fear you may feel is oftentimes misplaced. Your spouse loves you and wants you to feel healthy, energetic, and happy. Sometimes explaining your concerns or fears is in itself the best remedy.