BACKGROUND: The West-Haven Multidimensional Pain Inventory (MPI) can be used to describe behavioural and psychosocial consequences of long-term pain but little is known about how MPI items and MPI subgroups relate to goals that patients find important in rehabilitation. Life satisfaction measured by the LiSat-11 checklist can be defined as an individual's perception of the difference between his reality and his needs or wants. This difference can be considered a "goal achievement gap". This study investigates the relation of MPI to LiSat-11 with the aim to explore the possibility that LiSat-11 can be used to measure pain rehabilitation outcomes that are important from the patients' view. METHODS: Participators were patients (n = 294) referred to the Pain and Rehabilitation Clinic in Uppsala, Sweden. Measures used were LiSat-11, MPI and its Swedish version MPI-S. LiSat-11 domains were correlated to MPI scales. Cluster analysis was used to demonstrate MPI-S subgroups. Analysis of variance followed by post-hoc analysis was used to investigate life satisfaction in the three MPI-S subgroups. RESULTS: The strongest positive correlation were found for the LiSat-11 domains/MPI scales: psychological health/life control and contacts/social activities, and the strongest negative correlation for: psychological health/affective distress, partner relationship/punishing responses, somatic health/interference and leisure/interference. None or only little correlation was found between MPI scale pain severity and most LiSat-11 domains and satisfaction with life as a whole. Among the MPI-S subgroups, adaptive copers generally had better life satisfaction than the dysfunctional and the interpersonally distressed. CONCLUSION: Pain severity alone is a rather poor predictor of low life satisfaction. MPI and LiSat-11 partly supplement each other as tools to describe how functional impairments relate to life satisfaction domains, which may be relevant for identifying domains which the patients find important to improve. Furthermore, differences in life satisfaction between the MPI-S subgroups may help to identify functional domains that may be of particular importance in specialised rehabilitation programs.