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A beginner’s guide to Spoon Theory

You may be wondering what the term ‘spoon theory’ means, and in this blog we’ll explain what it is and how it is useful for people living with a long-term health condition, such as multiple sclerosis (MS) and those around them. iStock-1182205974_0.jpg

Chronic conditions can come with symptoms that include fatigue, and with MS there are two types of fatigue. Primary fatigue is caused by the demyelination that occurs in the central nervous system, slowing down the messages from the brain. Secondary fatigue can be a result of the other symptoms one may experience from MS. For example, disturbed sleep can be from bladder issues, pain or spasms, or fatigue may be a side effect of medications taken to aid MS symptoms.

Fatigue is more than the tired feeling that most people experience. Day to day tasks can be difficult to complete and is the feeling of exhaustion for extended periods of time. Lifestyle adaptations can be helpful, such as a change in diet, pre-emptive measures ahead of a particularly busy day or vitamin supplementation.

So, what is Spoon Theory? This term was reportedly introduced by Christine Miserando, who lives with lupus, and it was developed to help illustrate to the people in her life how fatigue feels for someone living with a chronic condition. The idea is that people without a chronic health condition start the day with an unlimited number of spoons, whereas someone with a health condition starts the day with a certain number of spoons.

Different activities throughout the day use up the spoons, and once the number of spoons for that day have been used, the only way to replenish them is by resting and getting good sleep. Getting ready for the day may use up as many spoons for as many tasks, for example, showering is one spoon, getting dressed is another. Or, if you wake up from a bad night’s sleep, you might begin with less spoons for the day than you might usually have.

Spoon theory helps the person living with MS understand their own pace and the tasks that they can realistically do in one day, whilst recognising that adjustments might need to be made. It also helps family and friends understand what it’s like to manage fatigue and how it impacts your daily life.

To learn more about MS and fatigue, download our latest Fatigue Choices booklet. From supplementation to tips on daily adjustments that you can make, our Helpline team has put this together for you to access it whenever you need to. Don’t forget, you can contact our helpline team free on 0800 783 0518 or via email at info@ms-uk.org.