Breaking the persistent pain cycle

The Pain Cycle is a tool you can use with someone to help them recognise how pain can affect a different aspects of their life in negative and self-reinforcing ways.

Its companion visual aid, the Self Care Cycle shows the positive outcomes of adopting a range of self-management approaches to undo or limit the impact of pain.

How to use the Pain Cycle tool

  • Listen to the person’s story and actively tick off areas that are apply to them on the Pain Cycle sheet, showing it to the patient.
  • Explain why it will help to shift the focus towards those aspects of their life that they can change
  • Give the person the Pain Cycle sheet and ask the patient to tick off the three most important areas they want to change now. You can repeat these steps for this month / next month
  • If the person is not sure which areas to change, let them take the Pain Cycle away and agree to review their three choices at the follow up
Pain management and action plans

In this short role-played consultation, Dr Frances Cole uses the Pain Cycle tool as a way to develop a pain management plan with a patient

(duration 11 minutes)

More tips for using the Pain Cycle tool

Help patients prioritise
If, having explored the Pain Cycle, a person expresses a desire for change across all areas it may suggest pain has a large impact on their health both physically and psychosocially. Explore further and guide them to make priorities.
Where change happens
Most change in thinking and behaviour happens between consultations, not within the consultation itself. Encouraging the pperson to actively use the Pain Cycle tool between consultations may help them to embrace change.

Download The Pain Cycle tool

Dr Frances Cole writes:

“For patients, living with persistent pain is both tough and isolating. Having a practitioner who understands and will support them to change is incredibly therapeutic in itself.”

Record your CPD

Live Well with Pain has partnered with Fourteen Fish, a UK company specialising in medical appraisal tools, to create a CPD recorder that is fully integrated into the site.