A Randomized, Controlled Pilot Study of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction for Pediatric Chronic Pain

Altern Ther Health Med. Nov-Dec 2013;19(6):8-14.


Context: It is estimated that 1 in 5 children in the United States is affected by chronic pain. Increasing adaptive coping strategies and decreasing stress may be important in treatment. Research has suggested that mindfulness can help alleviate symptoms associated with medical illnesses and increase quality of life. Little is known about the effectiveness of mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) in youth, partly due to insufficient methodological rigor in related studies.

Objective: The primary purpose of the present study was to examine the feasibility, acceptability, and effectiveness of MBSR for a treatment-seeking sample of youth with chronic pain.

Design: The current study was the first randomized, controlled pilot study of MBSR for pediatric chronic pain. The research team had intended to use block randomization involving a total of five recruitment waves, with each wave consisting of one MBSR group and one psychoeducation group. Due to difficulties with recruitment and attrition before the start of either group, however, only MBSR was conducted at each wave after the first wave.

Setting: Participants were recruited from a multidisciplinary pain clinic in a large, Midwestern children's hospital.

Participants: The final sample included six adolescents between the ages of 12 and 17 y, four in the MBSR group and two in the psychoeducation group.

Intervention: Weekly sessions for the MBSR group were 90 min in length and followed a structured protocol. Sessions included a review of homework, an introduction to and practice of meditation, discussion of the session, and a review of the home practice assignment. The psychoeducation group participated in six group sessions, which were based on a cognitive-behavioral model of pain, and discussion topics included the nature of chronic pain and stress management.

Primary outcome measures: Health-related quality of life, pain catastrophizing, anxiety, functional disability, mindfulness, and treatment acceptability were all assessed pre- and postintervention as well as at follow-up.

Results: Recruitment and retention difficulties were experienced. Qualitative examination of participants' scores suggested increased mindfulness but inconsistent patterns on other outcome measures.

Conclusions: The research team highlighted critical challenges faced by potential researchers aiming to investigate MBSR for pediatric chronic pain, and the study provides recommendations for research and implications for clinical practice.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Child
  • Chronic Pain / therapy*
  • Female
  • Hospitals, Pediatric
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mind-Body Therapies / methods*
  • Mindfulness / methods*
  • Pain Measurement
  • Pilot Projects
  • Stress, Psychological / therapy*