Toward a theoretical model for mindfulness-based pain management

J Pain. 2014 Jul;15(7):691-703. doi: 10.1016/j.jpain.2014.03.003.


Mindfulness, as both a process and a practice, has received substantial research attention across a range of health conditions, including chronic pain. Previously proposed mechanisms underlying the potential health-related benefits of mindfulness and mindfulness-based interventions (MBIs) are based on a strong theoretical background. However, to date, an empirically grounded, integrated theoretical model of the mechanisms of MBIs within the context of chronic pain has yet to be proposed. This is a surprising gap in the literature given the exponential growth of studies reporting on the benefits of MBIs for heterogeneous chronic pain conditions. Moreover, given the importance of determining how, and for whom, psychological interventions for pain management are effective, it is imperative that this gap in the literature be addressed. The overarching aim of the current theoretical paper was to propose an initial integrated, theoretically driven, and empirically based model of the mechanisms of MBIs for chronic pain management. Theoretical and research implications of the model are discussed. The theoretical considerations proposed herein can be used to help organize and guide future research that will identify the mechanisms underlying the benefits of mindfulness-based treatments, and perhaps psychosocial treatments more broadly, for chronic pain management.

Perspective: This focus article presents an initial framework for an empirically based, theoretical model of the mechanisms of MBIs for chronic pain management. Implications of the framework for refining theory and for future research are addressed.

Keywords: Chronic pain; mechanisms; meditation; mindfulness; theoretical model; theory.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Chronic Pain / rehabilitation*
  • Humans
  • Mindfulness / methods*
  • Models, Theoretical*
  • Pain Management*