MSK: Believe in Your Ability Summary

Controlling Your Pain: Believe in Your Ability

This is a summary of the module Controlling Your Pain: Believe in Your Ability for your reference.

Pain can make you doubt your ability to carry on with day-to-day tasks and experiences. However, if you believe in your ability to live a normal life despite the pain, you can begin to cope and live a fulfilling life.


Respond to this statement with your current outlook: “I can continue to live a normal life, despite my pain” __ True

__ False


In this module, we will focus on a concept related to your thoughts and beliefs —self-efficacy

Self-efficacy is the belief you have in your ability to take on challenges and accomplish goals. Here, we will focus specifically on self-effiacy related to pain

To help you understand this concept, we will use an example. As you read, pay attention to the factors that may be impacting self-efficacy.


Julia has reinjured herself at work and is experiencing low back pain. Her pain has intensified. She is now unable to complete her job tasks and has to take an extended leave from work.

It also affected her personal life. She no longer goes out to weekly dinners with close friends and has stopped participating in her hobbies, like running. Julia wants to get back to these activities as soon as possible.

Julia experienced a similar situation 5 years ago when she first injured her low back. She had intense pain for the first few months.


During this time, Julia found ways to complete her daily tasks at home and at work with some modifications as she healed.

  • She did weekly exercises provided to her by a physical therapist. 

  • She would get up and move every few hours instead of staying seated for long periods of time at her desk. 

  • She learned safe lifting practices and used them when she cleaned and organized her house. 

  • When she experienced flares in pain, she would use medications recommended by her doctor to ease the pain. 

She gradually became more active, despite the pain.


She thought back to this experience and started to feel better about her current back pain. She thought “I got through it once, I can do it again!” She feels confident that with some changes, she can continue to live a normal life despite the pain.

She decided to set a timer to stand up every hour starting the next day. She thinks “this is a good start until I am able to see my doctor.”


She went to her doctor to discuss her condition. The doctor encouraged her to start exercise therapy and to take over-the-counter pain medication as needed. The doctor even brought up her prior success. “You were still able to enjoy things despite the pain!” Julia left this appointment feeling motivated. She decided she would add in exercises along with standing up every hour.


Julia is able to add in new exercises each week from her physical therapist. She is determined to manage her low back pain. She persists even with some challenges.

When faced with challenges, she uses creativity to come up with possible solutions. She noticed she was having significant pain when she would bend over to wash her body in the shower. Instead of bending forward, Julia bought a loofa with a long handle to prevent triggering her pain.


Julia has a good friend at work, Carl, who also injured his low back. At the time, Carl was training for a 5k run. He initially had to stop his training. He then made changes to his workouts that helped him continue to heal from the injury. He started using the stationary bike to keep conditioned. Within 3 months, his low back pain was better and he continued to train for his 5k. 


She looked to Carl as an example and role model. She noticed that along with Carl’s positive mindset and hardworking nature, he made some changes to his routine and continued to follow advice from his doctor and physical therapist. 


A few months later, Julia noticed a significant improvement in her pain by feeling in control of her situation, making adjustments to daily life, and following her doctor’s advice. She was able to resume her previous routines. She feels accomplished with her progress. We would say Julia has high self-efficacy!


What are some of the reasons Julia believed in her ability to cope with pain? __

__ She successfully managed a similar injury before

__She is creative and persistent

__Her doctor was supportive

__She learned from her friend’s success

__She had a positive outlook


Answer: All are factors supporting Julia’s ability to accomplish her goals.

Read on for details about the factors supporting Julia’s self-efficacy and how to apply them in your life.


 Build On Your Success

Julia’s success in recovering from her first low back injury made her feel more confident about managing her repeat injury and pain. 

Each time you succeed in doing something, your self-efficacy increases.

Nothing breeds success like success.  A. Dumas ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

 Build On Your Success 

To achieve success, it can be helpful to start with small steps and build on them over time. 

For example, Julia’s first step to improving her low back pain was to set a timer to stand up and move every hour. From there, she incorporated exercises back into her week. With this, she noticed an improvement in her pain and felt good enough to start meeting her friends again.

climb towards goal for purpose and fulfillment slide


What is one small step you could take today?



Focus on Your Strengths

Creativity and persistence are two of Julia’s strengths. She uses them as she works on making supportive choices. 

  • Creativity: When Julia struggled with showering, she came up with the idea to get a loofa with a handle. This displayed her creativity when facing an issue!

  • Persistence: Despite the reinjured low back, Julia continued to stay active and was consistent with her exercise therapy. This persistence paid off as she slowly saw improvements. 

You can use your personal strengths to improve your skills and abilities, especially during challenging situations. 


Sometimes it can be difficult to identify our strengths. Imagine how a friend would describe you. What would they say are your strengths? Or what do they appreciate most about you?



Review this list of character strengths. 


Which three do you feel like you value the most?



Pick one strength. For the next week, focus on using that strength as often as you can. Try to use it in as many situations as possible. Write about it in your journal.

Now that you are more aware of your strengths, you can use them to build your self-efficacy. 


Gather Support

Support and encouragement from Julia’s doctor strengthened her confidence in her ability to cope with pain. 

Having support enhances your ability to bounce back from challenging or difficult situations. 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Who can you add to your support network? _______________________

Read the article in your Library, Building Resilience, for some examples.


Observe Other People’s Success

Julia’s friend, Carl, also helped to improve her self-efficacy. 

When you observe people who have achieved similar goals, your thoughts can shift from uncertainty to “I am able to do that too!” 

Julia saw her friend make lifestyle changes to overcome pain. This helped Julia believe she could too


Take a moment and think about someone who has accomplished a goal that you hope to achieve one day. What can you learn from their journey?



Balance Your Feelings

Our example highlighted both Julia’s physical and emotional states. 

Julia felt optimistic and eager to accomplish her goals, which enhanced her ability to do so. Emotionally feeling your best helps you to feel confident to succeed. 

There are many ways to feel your best. One of them is by reducing stress.

Your Goodpath program has many tools to help you feel your best.  


Which of these options from the Goodpath app would you like to try today? __ Self-compassion exercise

__ A guided meditation

__ My Goodpath journal

__ Introduction to mindfulness


Three Good Things

Here is another exercise you can do daily to feel your best:

List three things that went well for you today, and why. Try to give as much detail as possible. These three things can be big or small!

Here’s an example:

  1. I spoke to a close friend on the phone today. This friend always makes me feel my best and makes me laugh.

  2. I was able to enjoy music while I performed my exercises and stretches. Music makes me feel motivated and I find myself really enjoying that time.

  3. I had the energy to cook dinner today. Cooking is a form of stress relief for me and I enjoy trying new recipes weekly. 


Use the space below to list your “Three Good Things.” Continue this practice daily using a piece of paper, a journal, or your phone. _____________________________


Continue to practice the skills reviewed here and enhance your ability to cope with your pain.