Patients will have adapted many of the things they do in some way to reduce the impact of their pain. Some of the strategies will be of some benefit to them, but some will come at a cost. In this lesson, we outline some examples of the strategies that patients take and then outline how you can support patients to pace, get active, and plan for setbacks.

The table below provides a summary of some of the self-care strategies patients may talk about. Have a look at the strategies below and think about the conversations you have had with patients:

  • What steps have your patients taken to adjust to living with their pain?
  • Can you think of examples where the strategies patients have adopted have been helpful and where they have been adopted at a cost?
New ways of doing things“Rather than standing, I now sit on a stool to shave in the morning.”


“I use a trolley to lean on and it makes my weekly shop a little easier.”
Doing things differentlyTaking breaks:

“I’ve got a walk I take most mornings and there is a bench where I take a good 5 minutes break before I make my way back.”

Simplifying an activity:

“I used to prepare all the vegetables myself, but now I buy those pre-prepared packs.”

Avoiding an activity:

“I don’t do those things anymore, they just make my pain worse.”
Planning their timeAs a way of getting things done:

“If I make sure I take breaks in the morning, then I’ll be able to cook dinner in the evening, you know I kinda pace myself.”

As a way of saving energy:

“If I know I’ve got a big day coming up, I won’t do anything in the day or so before and after it, that way I know I’ll be able to enjoy myself more.”
PrioritisingRecognising what is really necessary:

“I just don’t hoover everyday any more, it will wait.”


“Work used to be everything but now I’d rather spend my time with my family”
Getting controlReceiving help from others:

“I ask my husband to do it now, it’s easier for me that way.”

Understanding that it is not possible to take part in all activities:

“I don’t pick the grandchildren up any more, they know that but we have more time to sit down and have cuddles now and that works better for all of us.”
Mixing things upVarying the intensity of an activity to get things done:

“I sit down now to have my lunch and a pause and that means I then feel refreshed later on.”

Incorporating a relaxing activity into the day:

“I have a bath at night, the kids are in bed and it’s my “me” time.”
DistractionUsing a joyful activity as a break away from pain:

“When I’ve got a really good book I can take my mind off the pain.”
*Strategies adapted from Kallhead & Martensson, 2018

A useful metaphor is to think in terms of a self-care toolkit. Watch this brief video that will help you to support patients to take on new self-care strategies.