While effective self-management of chronic pain is important, clinic-based studies exclude the more typical pattern of self-management that occurs in the community, often without reference to health professionals. We examined specific hypotheses about the use of self-management strategies in a population-based study of chronic pain subjects. Data came from an Australian population-based random digit dialling computer-assisted telephone survey and included 474 adults aged 18 or over with chronic pain (response rate 73.4%). Passive strategies were more often reported than active ones: passive strategies such as taking medication (47%), resting (31.5%), and using hot/cold packs (23.4%) were most commonly reported, while the most commonly reported active strategy was exercising (25.8%). Only 33.5% of those who used active behavioural and/or cognitive strategies used them exclusively, while 67.7% of those who used passive behavioural and/or conventional medical strategies did so exclusively. Self-management strategies were associated with both pain-related disability and use of health services in multiple logistic regression models. Using passive strategies increased the likelihood of having high levels of pain-related disability (adjusted OR 2.59) and more pain-related health care visits (adjusted OR 2.9); using active strategies substantially reduced the likelihood of having high levels of pain-related disability (adjusted OR 0.2). In conclusion, we have shown in a population-based study that clinical findings regarding self-management strategies apply to the broader population and advocate that more attention be given to community-based strategies for improving awareness and uptake of active self-management strategies for chronic pain.