Explaining spoon theory


I’m mid-flare and, as always, it’s floored me. I forget how awful these things are until they stab me in the back, steal my cognitive functions and leave me more exhausted than I’ve ever felt before.

I’m a week in to one of the worst flares of my life, which has got me thinking about the basics of pain management and using all the pills, potions, tips and tricks I’ve learnt along the way. One of the tools in my fibro toolkit is the explanation of Spoon Theory and Burning Nights have summed it up perfectly with the information and infographic below.

Burning Nights is a UK charity increasing awareness of Complex Regional Pain Syndome (CRPS) who said; “The everyday pain of living with a chronic illness such as fibromyalgia is exacerbated by some people’s lack of understanding as to what it feels like. When the illness is not overly conspicuous, there seems to be a default mentality that the person is exaggerating the description of their pain, an unfounded accusation that only makes the person’s suffering even worse.

Lupus sufferer Christine Miserandino became known worldwide for devising the Spoon Theory, a clever yet evocative analogy which brilliantly contextualises the daily struggles of people with chronic illness. She used 12 spoons to represent activities that she can manage during a typical day, with something as seemingly routine as getting dressed taking one spoon while activities like driving, attending lectures or completing tasks at work require multiple spoons.

Christine once spoke of her requirement to plan her day as if she was “strategizing a war” and it is a burden faced by chronic illness sufferers everywhere. Everything from selecting what clothes to wear to deciding what food to eat requires thought and pre-planning so that the consequences aren’t harshly felt afterwards.”

When we’re first diagnosed with a chronic illness, the diagnosis is quickly followed with a word of warning that it’s unlikely the pain will ever just go away and therefore we need to learn how to live with it. “Pain management” and “coping strategies” become some of our most common phrases and, ultimately, we need to learn how to pace ourselves without pushing our limits unnecessarily.

The infographic below explains spoon theory to help you manage your pain and pace yourself. It’s also a handy tool to share with friends and family to help them understand your challenges.