Living with Chronic Pain

Self-Management Education Programs for Chronic Pain


For the estimated 50 million people in the United States living with a chronic pain condition, managing their pain can be challenging. Chronic pain often affects quality of life and is one of the most common reasons to seek medical care. Self-management education programs can help individuals better manage their chronic pain.

What are self-management education programs?

Self-management education (SME) programs are interactive workshops or self-study programs developed by Stanford University. SME programs help individuals with various health conditions, including chronic pain, learn to live their lives to the fullest. SME teaches individuals strategies to live with less stress, increase energy and improve their quality of life.

Goal setting and self-monitoring result in improved decision-making skills concerning health issues. In return, these decisions lead to better self-management of chronic conditions. SME programs help individuals:

  • Gain control of health
  • Reduce depression and improve mood
  • Develop healthy eating habits
  • Manage chronic pain symptoms and fatigue
  • Reduce stress
  • Become as active as possible
  • Prioritize daily tasks
  • Effectively communicate with health care professionals
  • Manage medications

Self-management education formats

Self-management education is available in four formats — in-person group workshops, virtual online group workshops, internet asynchronous programs or self-study programs.

In-person group workshops

In-person group workshops are led by trained leaders in convenient community locations and typically involve two-and-a-half hours per week for six weeks. The interactive SME group workshop program is also known as “Living Well” and is available in both English and Spanish.

Self-study programs

Self-study programs can be found online at or ordered and received via mail. They are available in both English and Spanish and allow individuals to work at their own pace and focus on specific subjects. Self-study kits include the following:

  • “Living a Healthy Life with Chronic Pain” workbook
  • Information sheets
  • Self-test to help identify needs and set priorities
  • Action plan with instructions
  • Exercise action plan with an exercise CD
  • Relaxation CD

Subjects covered include the following:

  • Appropriate use of medications
  • Breathing techniques
  • Effective communication
  • Evaluation of new treatment plans
  • Exercise plans to maintain and improve strength, flexibility and endurance
  • Depression management
  • Good decision-making skills concerning health issues
  • Healthy eating habits
  • Relaxation methods
  • Techniques to deal with frustration, fatigue, pain and isolation

Programs for specific health conditions

Self-management education programs are available for various health conditions, including, but not limited to, the following:

For more information on the self-management education programs developed by Stanford University and the Stanford Patient Education Research Center, visit

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