Work with people in pain?

Vicious cycle of pain and deconditioning
The vicious cycle of pain and deconditioning

1step2life is the only pain app to focus on increasing function and treatment adherence rather than logging pain.

All pain apps can be used to log pain. Ours can too (although see the important difference, below).

1step2life does more. It is designed to break the chronic pain cycle by keeping patients’ focus on daily improvement in major life activities: attending school or work, social interactions, caring for self and others, and enjoying healthy leisure.

People living with pain set weekly goals in six major areas:

  • Diet & Hydration
  • Exercise
  • Stress reduction/meditation/biofeedback
  • Sleep
  • Taking medications
  • Daily functioning

Daily logging of mood and activities keep the focus on improving functioning and returning to life, rather than on pain.

And yes, 1step2life can be used to log pain. Patients choose whether they want to be asked about their pain daily, weekly, monthly, or never.

  • Daily log

Putting parents and caregivers into the equation.

1step2life was designed to provide parents, spouses and other caregivers with the tools they need to be effective coaches.

Caregivers can use the app to record mood and activities and to set weekly goals.

But 1step2life does more. It helps caregivers provide effective scaffolding and move the patient towards greater autonomy. Importantly, it allows parents and caregivers to increase healthy interactions with the people they love. By logging use of positive reinforcement, conversations and activities that are not pain focused, and encouraging patient autonomy, caregivers can move their relationships beyond talk of pain and pills.

Effective support is critical for patient success. As Benore, Fahrenkamp, Zhakunets, & Banez (2020) writel:

“Some families feel hopeless in this process—dwelling on the months of academic decline and perceived lack of support. Other families become defensive—ready to fight and validate the suffering of their child. Still others fully understand their needs, yet lack the ability to successfully advocate for their child, falling into a passive role in this process.

1step2life empowers patients and caregivers by giving them tools to engage in the pain rehabilitation process effectively.

Parents and caregivers are crucial to patient success – particularly pediatric patients. 1step2life operates in two modes: one for those in pain and one for their caregivers.

Download Benore, Fahrenkamp, Zhakunets, & Banez (2020):

Doctors and providers design treatment plans for teens in pain to follow. But it’s parents who help them follow through.

1step2life is based on cutting edge developmental and rehabilitation science

1step2life is based on a philosophy of chronic pain rehabilitation articulated in Zeltzer & Schlank’s (2005) classic book Conquering Your Child’s Chronic Pain.

  • All pain is real
  • Don’t ask about or focus on pain
  • Improved functioning comes before reduced pain
  • Scaffold progress, supporting maximum patient autonomy and self-governance
  • Embrace healthy lifestyle changes, including exercise, good diet and hydration, and excellent sleep hygiene
  • Look at pain within the whole context of the patient’s life
  • Relieving chronic pain and returning to developmentally appropriate activities is rarely a quick fix and is much more likely to occur in a series of small steps.

Nancy Darling, PhD, 1step2life’s founder, is a developmental psychologist. For the last 35 years, she has studied parenting, governance transfer, and adolescent compliance in the US, Chile, Italy, Japan, the Philippines, Spain, Sweden, Tanzania, and Uganda.

When her son was diagnosed with severe chronic migraines, she was struck by the overlap between core areas of pain rehabilitation – particularly lifestyle changes – and those areas where adolescents were least likely to comply and most likely to lie to their parents. Her recent research provides insight into both adolescents’ and parents’ beliefs about the limits of doctors’ legitimate authority and the effect of those beliefs on adherence.

1step2life explicitly encourages parents and other caregivers to act as effective coaches. Research on five continents shows that adherence is highest when parents support adolescent autonomy and challenge their adolescents to push themselves to do their best while providing consistent unconditional support.

  • Daily log

Patients start where they are are.

Users record progress with just a touch: I made it to the kitchen, texted a friend, walked the dog, or got to school on time. Exercise, diet, stress reduction, caring for self and others, playing with pets, and reaching out to friends. It’s there. By recording everyday triumphs, people living with pain can keep their focus on what they CAN do rather than what they can’t. Users can add their own goals: exercises from their physical therapist, daily biofeedback, or talking to friends. Whatever is important to them.


Importantly, 1step2life is designed to focus on success. If users report that they haven’t gotten dressed, we won’t ask if they’ve been to work. 

Daily mood tracking allows users to visualize the links between well-being, functioning and – if they’re tracking it – pain.

If you’re living with chronic pain, you’ve got two choices. You can cuddle up with it on the couch or you can take it with you and live your life. Because the pain is going to be there.

1step2life provides patients and their families with the tools they need to make effective lifestyle changes.


When Dr. Darling’s son went to the Cleveland Clinic Pediatric Pain Rehabilitation Program, one metaphor really stuck her. It can take a long time to find effective treatment. They said “If you live with chronic pain, you’ve got two choices. You can cuddle up with it on the couch or you can take it with you and live your life. Because the pain is going to be there.”

The thing is, research says that when you get up and function with pain the pain gets better over time. The longer you put your life on hold and wait for things to get better, the worse the pain gets. It’s a vicious cycle.

Breaking that cycle is tough. It’s tough for patients. It tears the heart out of the people who love them. They’re not going to do it all at once. They’re not going to do it every day. But by focusing on what they CAN do and what they DID do, patients can make progress.

And take back their lives. Once step at a time.

We can help.

Log life.
Not pain.

Want to make this app work for YOU?

We are recruiting people in pain, parents and caregivers, and healthcare professionals to help us finalize the design and functionality before we release in August 2020.
Sign up for our newsletter to follow our progress and hear about opportunities for beta testers.

Interested in adopting the 1step2life app for your practice? Contact us directly! We can provide training and support.


Available on the App Store and Google Play

We respect your privacy.

The accounts of family members, caregivers, and those living with pain are completely separate. We know that for you to take control of your life you need to be honest with yourself. Privacy is essential to that process.

1step2life will never sell your data.