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Spoon Theory


Spoon Theory is a metaphor that is used to describe the amount of mental or physical energy a person has available for daily activities and tasks. Christine Miserandino created this idea in 2003 while trying to explain what it was like living with Lupus. ‘Spoons’ are used as a simple analogy to signify units of energy, with the total number of spoons being the total energy available.


Generally, most people wake up each day with an unlimited supply of spoons, they get up, make meals, exercise, go to work, visit friends etc. all without a great deal of thought or planning. However, people living with certain mental or physical health conditions start out each day with only a limited number of spoons. How many spoons they have is personal to their circumstances.


Different tasks will use up a different number of spoons, with something small using up, say, one spoon, but a bigger task using up several. If someone uses all their spoons up early in the day this makes the rest of the day a challenge. They could push themselves and ‘borrow’ spoons from the next day’s allowance, but that means they start the next day in deficit leaving them with even less energy than normal. The below infographic gives you an idea of what this might look like:

Picture courtesy of Burning Nights, the full original can be viewed on their website.

The concept allows people to think about how best to plan their activities, what they can realistically achieve in a day with the spoons available and makes them think about where they might be 'wasting' spoons. It also helps them explain to others the challenges they face and why they may be having a good day or a bad day. You may have heard people referred to as ‘Spoonies’ or someone say they are 'running low on spoons' and this is where the terms come from!


I have many clients that are Spoonies, and massage can be very beneficial in helping them manage symptoms of their conditions. However, it is important to always be mindful that treatment is tailored to their needs, and their condition, and therefore doesn’t take more spoons than it should. This means being mindful of pressure and techniques used so as not to overload them. It may also mean that an appointment needs to be rescheduled if it will be too much for them on a given day. If you have any questions about this, or whether massage might be appropriate for you, then please get in touch to discuss.

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