Self-Help Tips to Manage Pain

Many factors influence how you feel pain. Find out more about common factors influencing pain, when to consult a doctor and lifestyle changes to prevent or manage pain.


Many factors influence how you feel pain as shown in the diagram below1. Pain acts as a signal of possible injury and adopting a healthy attitude towards pain can be beneficial. 

Factors Influencing Pain.png

Consult a doctor if you are experiencing any of these signs or symptoms

  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Persistent pain from an injury
  • Chest pain or jaw pain
  • Shortness of breath or cold sweat
  • Fever or night sweat
  • Pain which does not improve after rest or pain medication
  • Swelling or redness around area of pain
  • Change in urinary and bowel control
  • Worsening headache, numbness, weakness or tingling sensation in any region
  • Sudden loss of function (e.g. Difficulty in balancing when walking, unsteady walking)

Managing different types of pain

Acute pain (<2-3 weeks)

  • Move within pain limits. Avoid or modify activities that worsen your pain. Rest when needed.
  • For acute injuries, wrap a cold pack in a towel and apply it for 10-15min over the area of pain a few times a day. Do not place it directly on your skin.
  • Strong painkillers are usually not needed. Simple medications may help e.g., paracetamol, or ibuprofen. Avoid long term medications without consulting your pharmacist or doctor. 
  • Gradually return to your usual activities when you can. 
  • In most cases, your pain should improve in 6 weeks. Consult a doctor if your pain worsens or if you have any of the symptoms mentioned above.

Chronic/ Long-term pain (>3 months)

  • Long-term stress can affect our health and worsen the pain2. Relaxation exercises can help provide some stress and pain relief. Visit MindSG for more tips on managing stress.
  • Gradually return to your exercise routine when you can. 
  • Visit this Healthhub link for more information on how to start exercising when you are in pain.
  • Better manage pain with staying active by making the lifestyle changes listed below.
  • Consider consulting a healthcare provider if you have not done so.

Lifestyle changes to prevent or manage musculoskeletal pain

  1. Cultivate a healthy body3
    1. Maintain a healthy weight.
    2. Eat a balanced diet.
    3. Exercise regularly. Aim for at least 150 to 300 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic physical activity weekly, and moderate-intensity strengthening activities at least 2 days weekly.
    4. When exercising, build intensity gradually. Refer to Singapore Physical Activity Guidelines.
    5. Wear supportive and comfortable clothes and footwear when exercising.
  2. Get enough sleep3
    1. Sleep gives our body time to restore itself. Get at least 7 hours of sleep each day and try the tips on MindSG for better sleep.
  3. Stop smoking3
    1. Smoking harms yourself as well as your loved ones
    2. Refer to I Quit on tips to quit smoking.
  4. Change your position regularly
    1. Reduce your joint/ muscle stress and fatigue by taking frequent breaks.
    2. Change your posture every 30 minutes.
    3. Do simple exercises.
    4. If you stand for long, support one foot on a stool or step.
    5. When on the phone, do not tuck the phone between your ear and shoulder.
    6. Consider these tips for work station ergonomics.
  5. Lift objects with proper lifting strategies
    1. Always keep object close to your body.
    2. Use your leg muscles to help you lift the object, where possible.
    3. Do not twist your body when carrying the object.
    4. Know your limits. People often injure themselves when they are fatigued or physically unfit.
  6. Perform self-directed exercises 
    1. Specific to body region of concern, to improve strength and/or flexibility.

Possible treatment options by healthcare providers 

  • As most musculoskeletal conditions do not require steroid injections or surgery to recover, conservative treatments are usually considered first.
  • The decision for these treatment options should be discussed with your healthcare provider, who will provide recommendations after assessing your condition.
Conservative Treatment_19Apr.png
Invasive Treatment_19Apr.png



In most cases, your pain should improve in 6 weeks. See a doctor if your pain worsens or if you have any of the symptoms stated in the “Consult a doctor if you are experiencing any of these signs or symptoms” section above.

Support networks / Useful links:


One-Rehab Musculoskeletal Workgroup (Jan 2023 - Dec 2023)

Musculoskeletal Physiotherapists from Public Healthcare Institutions 


  1. Mallick-Searle, T., Sharma, K., Toal, P., & Gutman, A. (2021). Pain and Function in Chronic Musculoskeletal Pain-Treating the Whole Person. Journal of multidisciplinary healthcare, 14, 335–347.
  2. Crofford, L. J. (2015). Psychological aspects of chronic musculoskeletal pain. Best practice & research Clinical rheumatology29(1), 147-155.
  3. Dean, E., & Söderlund, A. (2015). What is the role of lifestyle behaviour change associated with non-communicable disease risk in managing musculoskeletal health conditions with special reference to chronic pain?. BMC musculoskeletal disorders16(1).


Icon of Knee in “Invasive Treatments” image made by Victoruler from

All other icons made by Freepik from

Back to Top