Research project

An Exploratory Study to Develop the Sustainable Self Effective Exercise Development (SUSSED) Intervention

Understanding barriers to increasing physical activity in chronic pain

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Start date

October 2020

Completion date

November 2021



Chief Scientist Office, Scottish Government Health and Social Care Directorates

The majority of people living with chronic pain have activity levels well below expected for their age, and many are prescribed potentially harmful analgesics (e.g. opioids), which often impact on quality of life and are not always effective in managing chronic pain in the longer term. Increasing physical activity (PA) is a safe, effective treatment, but it is a potential intervention which is not used often.  In this study, we aim to understand the barriers and facilitators to engaging with PA in people living with chronic pain. An understanding these barriers and facilitators will be framed within the Capability, Opportunity, and Motivation– Behaviour (COM-B) model, to design practical approaches for health behaviour change.

The study has successfully recruited to target, with the study team including people with chronic pain, as well as the Green Health Partnership. This project has involved: (1) conducting interviews with people living with moderate-severe chronic pain in order to understand barriers and facilitators (physical, social and psychological) influencing PA; (2) conducting interviews with health professionals, carers and other stakeholders to develop an understanding of how best to support engagement with PA in people living with chronic pain; and (3) to compare the reliability of different PA monitors (Fitbit and activPAL) to accurately measuring PA, and to examine associations between the use of these monitors and PA.

Data are currently being analysed and the results will inform the design of the SuUstainable Self Effective Exercise Development (SUSSED) framework, which aims to produce a personalised PA plan for people with chronic pain, systematically taking account of all the relevant factors for each individual.


Project team

Dr Cassandra Higgins, Dr Callum Leese,

Rebecca Skinner


Chief Scientist Office logo
SUSSED logo with an outline of a person walking and text SUSSED following behind

Project type

Research project