Self-management of chronic pain: a population-based study

Pain. 2005 Feb;113(3):285-292. doi: 10.1016/j.pain.2004.12.004.


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.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Activities of Daily Living
  • Adaptation, Psychological
  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Age Distribution
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Cetrimonium Compounds
  • Chronic Disease
  • Cognition / physiology
  • Demography
  • Disability Evaluation
  • Disabled Persons
  • Drug Combinations
  • Female
  • Health Care Surveys*
  • Health Surveys
  • Humans
  • Logistic Models
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Myristates
  • Nicotinic Acids
  • Odds Ratio
  • Pain / epidemiology
  • Pain / psychology*
  • Pain Measurement
  • Patient Acceptance of Health Care / statistics & numerical data
  • Residence Characteristics
  • Self Care*
  • Simethicone
  • Stearic Acids
  • Surveys and Questionnaires


  • Cetrimonium Compounds
  • Drug Combinations
  • Myristates
  • Nicotinic Acids
  • Stearic Acids
  • Prevasore
  • Simethicone