Brief Mindfulness-Based Interventions for Acute and Chronic Pain: A Systematic Review

Andrew S. McClintock, Shannon M. McCarrick, Eric L. Garland, Fadel Zeidan, Aleksandra E. Zgierska

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

66 Scopus citations


Objectives: Nonpharmacologic approaches have been characterized as the preferred means to treat chronic noncancer pain by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. There is evidence that mindfulness-based interventions (MBIs) are effective for pain management, yet the typical MBI may not be feasible across many clinical settings due to resource and time constraints. Brief MBIs (BMBIs) could prove to be more feasible and pragmatic for safe treatment of pain. The aim of the present article is to systematically review evidence of BMBI's effects on acute and chronic pain outcomes in humans. Methods: A literature search was conducted using PubMed, PsycINFO, and Google Scholar and by examining the references of retrieved articles. Articles written in English, published up to August 16, 2017, and reporting on the effects of a BMBI (i.e., total contact time <1.5 h, with mindfulness as the primary therapeutic technique) on a pain-related outcome (i.e., pain outcome, pain affect, pain-related function/quality of life, or medication-related outcome) were eligible for inclusion. Two authors independently extracted the data and assessed risk of bias. Results: Twenty studies meeting eligibility criteria were identified. Studies used qualitative (n = 1), within-group (n = 3), or randomized controlled trial (n = 16) designs and were conducted with clinical (n = 6) or nonclinical (i.e., experimentally-induced pain; n = 14) samples. Of the 25 BMBIs tested across the 20 studies, 13 were delivered with audio/video recording only, and 12 were delivered by a provider (participant-provider contact ranged from 3 to 80 min). Existing evidence was limited and inconclusive overall. Nevertheless, BMBIs delivered in a particular format - by a provider and lasting more than 5 min - showed some promise in the management of acute pain. Conclusions: More rigorous large scale studies conducted with pain populations are needed before unequivocally recommending BMBI as a first-line treatment for acute or chronic pain.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)265-278
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 2019

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Complementary and alternative medicine


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