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Managing Pain with SMART goals

1 in 5 Canadians lives with pain every day. Pain impacts nearly every aspect of their lives and can lead to other issues including insomnia and emotional distress, which is also known as the Pain Triad. Although it may seem sensible to focus on reducing pain severity with medication, non-pharmacological options such as physical therapy should usually take precedence when treating pain.

Chronic pain treatment options are limited, and patients are frequently conflicted about the efficacy and safety of some of them. Opioids are currently the most used pain medication, and in light of the current opioid crisis and the devastating impact of opioid-related harms, we are looking for alternate pain management options.

The balancing act of managing chronic pain

Treating chronic pain doesn’t just mean reducing the pain, but also helping the person to enjoy life more, having a strong sense of emotional well-being, increasing their physical activity, improving sleep, reducing fatigue, and participating in social and recreational activities. That’s why, when it comes to pain management, set SMART goals.

What are SMART Goals?

SMART goals are a way of creating manageable and achievable goals. SMART = specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, timely:

Specific – Work out what you want to achieve – be specific – what is your goal?
Measurable – when do you want to accomplish your goal. What time, when and how often?
Achievable – is this goal within your abilities and something that you can achieve?
Realistic – why do you want to accomplish your goal? How will you keep yourself motivated?
Timely– when do you want to accomplish your goal? How will you know when you have achieved it?

It’s okay to re-evaluate your goals. Goals are always adaptable if you keep moving forward, keep your mindset on the end goal and remember how important it is to you! SMART goals are adaptable and easily measured.

Tips to set your SMART Goals

It can be a bit overwhelming to first set your pain management goals. Here are some quick tips to help you get started!

• Learn your baseline and pacing plan for how much activity you can manage without a flare in pain
• Make a simple daily to-do list that you can tick off
• Factor in rest and days your pain is bad
• Keep track of your progress with a notebook
• Write a plan for good days and a plan for bad days
• Don’t let a bad day derail you from your goal
• Choose something that cultivates and strengthens the habit

Pain SMART Goal examples:

Bob has arthritis and has been dealing with chronic pain in the lower back for almost 10 years. Below are his SMART goals to manage his joint pain, alongside his own medical treatment plan and therapies:

Goal: He wants to sit and watch tv for 30 mins.
Baseline: currently he can sit for 15 mins without a flare in pain.
Starting time: his starting time would be 10 mins.
Daily plan: practice sitting every day, despite the pain for 15 mins.
Weekly increase: increase sitting time by 2 mins each week.
Timeframe to achieve the goal: 10 weeks to sit every day for 30 mins.

Have questions? Connect with us via email at or call our Client Care Team at 1-844-756-7333.

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