Chronic Pain Self-Management Program

The teaching process makes this program effective. Classes are highly participatory. Mutual support and success builds participants’ confidence in their ability to manage their health and maintain active and fulfilling lives.


  • Small group workshop
  • 2 1/2 hours per session
  • 1 session per week for 6 weeks
  • It is the process in which the program is taught that makes it effective. Classes are highly participative, where mutual support and success build the participants’ confidence in their ability to manage their health and maintain active and fulfilling lives.


  • Community settings such as senior centers, churches, libraries and hospitals.
  • Special attention should be given to making the location accessible to all.
  • A room large enough for all participants to gather comfortably, plus space for 2 leaders and their materials.


  • People managing chronic pain
  • 12-16 participants per workshop

Participant Materials


  • 2 trained leaders, one or both of whom are non-health professionals with chronic pain themselves.
  • Must be trained by certified Master Trainers, or must be Master Trainers themselves.

Subjects Taught 

(Note: Participants make weekly action plans, share experiences, and help each other solve problems they encounter in creating and carrying out their self-management program. Physicians and other health professionals both at Stanford and in the community have reviewed all materials in the workshop.)

  • Techniques to deal with problems such as frustration, fatigue, isolation, and poor sleep
  • Appropriate exercise for maintaining and improving strength, flexibility, and endurance
  • Appropriate use of medications
  • Communicating effectively with family, friends, and health professionals
  • Nutrition
  • Pacing activity and rest
  • How to evaluate new treatments.

Programa de Manejo Personal del Dolor Crónico

This program is a Spanish translation of the Chronic Pain Self-Management Program

Frequently Asked Questions

Does the Program replace existing programs and treatments?

The Self-Management Program will not conflict with existing programs or treatment. It is designed to enhance regular treatment. The program gives participants the skills to coordinate all the things needed to manage their health, as well as to help them keep active in their lives.

How was the Program developed?

The Chronic Pain Self-Management Program, known as the CPSMP, was developed by Sandra LeFort, PhD, MN, RN in 1996 at McGill University in Montreal and later updated at Memorial University, St. John's, Newfoundland, Canada, with Lisa Cardas, RN of Toronto, Ontario. The CPSMP was developed in conjunction with Dr. Kate Lorig and the staff of the Stanford Patient Education Research Center. It was derived from Stanford’s Arthritis Self-Management Program and the Chronic Disease Self-Management program. It was revised in 2015 and a new book, Living a Healthy Life with Chronic Pain, was written to accompany the program.

The CPSMP was developed for people who have a primary or secondary diagnosis of chronic pain. Pain is defined as being chronic or long term when it lasts for longer than 3 to 6 months, or beyond the normal healing time of an injury. Examples of chronic pain conditions are: chronic musculo-skeletal pain (such as neck, shoulder, back pain, etc.), fibromyalgia, whiplash injuries, chronic regional pain syndromes, repetitive strain injury, chronic pelvic pain, post-surgical pain that lasts beyond 6 months, neuropathic pain (often caused by trauma), or neuralgias (such as post-herpetic pain, and trigeminal neuralgia), and post stroke or central pain. The CPSMP may also benefit those who have conditions such as persistent headache, Crohn’s disease, irritable bowel syndrome, diabetic neuropathy, or those who experience severe muscular pain due to conditions such as multiple sclerosis.

How was the Program evaluated?

Like the other SMRC self-management programs, the CPSMP has also been rigorously evaluated in two randomized clinical trials funded by Health Canada and the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR). The research studies found that, on average, people who have participated in the CPSMP have more vitality or energy, less pain, less dependence on others, improved mental health, are more involved in everyday activities, and are more satisfied with their lives compared to those who have not taken the program. The program has also been delivered and evaluated across 10 pain clinics in Ontario, Canada. Evaluation of the program found it to be beneficial for participants in terms of coping skills, education, and overall quality of life. To date, the program has been delivered to hundreds of individuals with chronic pain.*

How can my facility offer the Program?

Web-based cross-training is available through Stanford for those already trained in the Chronic Disease Self-Management Program (CDSMP). Because the pain program shares many of the basic techniques with the CDSMP, those new to our self-management programs should take in-person training for the CDSMP before being cross-trained in the pain program. Training locations, dates and application can be found in the "Training" section of this website.

*Outcome data reported in: 
LeFort, S., Gray-Donald, K., Rowat, K.M. & Jeans, M.E. Randomized controlled trial of a community-based psychoeducation program for the self-management of chronic pain. Pain, 74, 297-306, 1998.