This paper is based upon a research project designed to investigate the nursing management of pain in the community A theoretical framework is described which has been designed to encompass the complexities of different types of pain, individual differences in reaction to pain, and to identify key differences between patients who cope with pain and those who do not The framework is based on a model of stress, the concept of controllability, and contemporary learning theory It identifies a unique role for the nurse in pain management and will be used to direct a study into strategies which nurses can use to enhance the coping abilities and resources of elderly patients in the community with pain