Despite technological advances, many postoperative patients continue to suffer unrelieved pain. The aim of this study was to identify the strategies used by postoperative patients to bring about pain management decisions. A single-group noncomparative study design was chosen using observations as the means of examining pain activities in 2 surgical units of a metropolitan teaching hospital in Melbourne, Australia. A total of 52 nurses and 312 patients participated in the study, and 316 pain activities were observed. The most common strategy used was patients acting as a passive recipient for pain relief (60%), whereas problem solving (23%) and active negotiation (17%) were less commonly used. Patients in this study were admitted for surgical treatment of a particular condition, and their subsequent pain was specifically related to this acute event. Therefore, the lack of familiarity of the situation and the severity of pain experienced may have encouraged passivity. Patients may have also felt uncertain about how to approach the pain decision, preferring to defer to nurses. Because increased pain levels can be associated with fear, patients could have been unwilling to speak with nurses to discuss their need for pain relief.