5 Self-Care Ideas for People with Chronic Pain

Self-care is essential if you live with chronic pain. In general, self-care is an act of self compassion, prioritizing your wellness. However, when you have chronic pain, self-care can become the foundation for managing your pain. 

This article will explore the importance of self-care for folks with chronic pain. Read on for several self-care ideas that can improve your ability to manage pain. 

What is Self-Care?

The World Health Organization has defined self-care as: 

The ability of individuals, families, and communities to promote health, prevent disease, maintain health, and to cope with illness and disability, with or without the support of a health-care provider.

WHO 2013

The main take away from this definition is “with or without the support of a health-care provider”. So, yes – seeing your doctor regularly and working together to treat and manage your chronic pain is self-care. However, the actions you take at home to look after yourself are also significant

An older woman stands in her kitchen as she prepares some food while listening to music; this is her self-care for chronic pain.

Simply put, self care is any action that you do to take care of your health and wellbeing. This can be physically, emotionally, spiritually, and more. The way you care for yourself doesn’t have to be solely physical. Your mental and social health are just as important. 

In fact, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration recognizes eight dimensions of wellness. They are: 

  • Emotional 
  • Spiritual 
  • Intellectual
  • Physical
  • Environmental
  • Financial
  • Occupational
  • Social 

Therefore, activities like doing your favorite hobby, praying to your higher power, or going out with your friends count as self-care, too. 

Why is self-care important for managing chronic pain?

Often, with chronic pain, several dimensions of your wellness can become impacted negatively. For example, perhaps you don’t see your friends as much or have to work less due to pain. This may impact your social, financial, and occupational spheres of wellness. 

A woman sits with her head down against her hands on a table in front of a laptop. She is surrounded by coffee cups. She could use some self-care for her chronic pain.

It may be helpful for you to reflect on the areas of your life that you feel have been impacted. Make a self-care plan to support yourself where you feel you are struggling. 

For instance, if you are struggling with your social, financial, and occupational dimensions, you can use that to consider what kind of self-care you may need. You might plan to call a pal once a week, stick to a budget, and try a new hobby.

5 Self-Care Ideas for Folks with Chronic Pain

1. Movement is self-care

Regular exercise can be an amazing self-care tool. Along with benefitting your physical health, it can also improve your mood and self-confidence. Exercise can be challenging with chronic pain, but low-impact exercises, like yoga and swimming, can be gentle. Exercising strengthens your muscles, increases circulation, and improves flexibility. These are all major for folks with chronic pain. Additionally, the release of endorphins can help your mental health greatly. Plus, endorphins can block pain signals! If you choose an exercise that you like to do, it will be easier to remain consistent. 

A group of seniors practice Tai Chi together.

2. Eat Good Food 

Eating healthier is challenging when you don’t have the energy to cook. Feeding yourself good food can make a big difference in your health; especially with chronic pain. Some foods promote inflammation while other foods can calm it. Knowing your triggers and being mindful of what you eat is excellent self-care. Try scheduling time to plan what you’re going to eat for the week; pick healthy recipes that are easy to do and can be frozen for when you’re in too much pain to cook. 

3. Socialize 

Chronic pain can lead to isolation. It’s hard to go out and see friends and family when you’re in pain. Some friends may drop off as they don’t understand how pain can be variable. However, socializing is still important for your mental and social health. Accessing support from your loved ones can help you through tough times. Make a recurring date with a pal to hang out or speak on the phone. Even checking in through text can make a difference. You may be interested in meeting folks through our online support groups or forums

4. Find Your Joy Despite Chronic Pain

Living in pain is challenging. Nothing about pain is fun or enjoyable. However, that doesn’t mean that life can’t be enjoyable with pain. Giving yourself opportunities to experience joy, despite pain can be so healing. Make time for your favorite hobbies, seek laughter, snuggle a pet, etc. Find something that makes you smile; you deserve happiness. This type of self-care may lift you out of a dark place if pain is all that is on your mind.

5. Relaxation

When you think of self-care, you may envision someone lounging in a bath with a face mask on. That’s because relaxing is a valuable form of self-care. For folks with chronic pain, tension builds up in your body and stress becomes the norm. Find ways to relax and let go of that tension. Further, release some of your stress regularly to avoid burnout and breakdowns. That may look like sitting in a bath for an hour every week or journaling each night. This will be individual to you! Check out our video library for relaxing guided meditations

A woman sitting crossed legged in front of a laptop meditating.


Self-care is a valuable part of your overall care. When you make your health your responsibility you may feel empowered and more in control of your pain. 

What are your non-negotiable self-care practices? How do you think they affect your ability to manage your pain? Leave us a comment or discuss in our living with chronic pain forum


Glowiak, M. (2020). What is self-care and why is it important for you? Southern New Hampshire University. Retrieved from here 

Mental Health First Aid USA. (2022). How and why to practice self-care. Mental Health First Aid. Retrieved from here.

Monroe, A. (2020). Self-care strategies for relieving chronic pain. Holland Hospital. Retrieved from here 

Narasimhan, M. & Kapila, M. (2019). Implications of self-care for health service provision. Bulletin World Health Organization, 97(2): 76. DOI: https://doi.org/10.2471%2FBLT.18.228890  

SAMHSA. (2016). Creating A Healthier Life: A Step-By-Step Guide to Wellness. Rockville: Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. 

Southside Pain Specialists. (2020). How self-care can improve chronic pain conditions. Southside Pain Specialists. Retrieved from: here 

World Health Organization. (2013). Self-care for health: a handbook for community health workers and volunteers. New Delhi: World Health Organization Regional Office for South-East Asia.

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