BACKGROUND: Approximately 10 to 20 percent of the population is suffering from chronic pain. Since this represents a major contribution to the costs of the health care system, more efficient measures and interventions to treat these patients are sought. RESULTS: The development of general health and physical activity of patients with chronic pain was assessed in an interdisciplinary outpatient pain management program (IOPP). 36 patients with an average age of 48 years were included in the IOPP. Subjective assessment of well-being was performed at five time points (baseline, post intervention and 3, 6, and 12 months thereafter) by using standardized questionnaires. The study focused on the quality of life survey Medical Outcomes Study Short Form-36, which is a validated instrument with established reliability and sensitivity. In addition, the patients participated in physical assessment testing strength, power, endurance, and mobility.Prior to therapy a substantial impairment was found on different levels. Marked improvements in the psychological parameters were obtained by the end of the program. No success was achieved with regard to the physical assessments. CONCLUSION: Although many different studies have evaluated similar programs, only few of them have attained positive results such as improvements of general quality of life or of physical strength. Often no difference from the control group could be detected only some months after the intervention. In the present study no significant persistent improvement of well-being occurred. Possible reasons are either wrong instruments, wrong selection of patients or wrong interventions.