Psychological Neuromodulatory Treatments for Young People with Chronic Pain

Children (Basel). 2016 Dec 6;3(4):41. doi: 10.3390/children3040041.


The treatment of young people with chronic pain is a complex endeavor. Many of these youth do not obtain adequate relief from available interventions. Psychological neuromodulatory treatments have been shown to have potential benefit for adults with chronic pain. Here, we review and summarize the available information about the efficacy of three promising psychological neuromodulatory treatments-neurofeedback, meditation and hypnosis-when provided to young people with chronic pain. A total of 16 articles were identified and reviewed. The findings from these studies show that hypnotic treatments are effective in reducing pain intensity for a variety of pediatric chronic pain problems, although research suggests variability in outcomes as a function of the specific pain problem treated. There are too few studies evaluating the efficacy of neurofeedback or meditation training in young people with chronic pain to draw firm conclusions regarding their efficacy. However, preliminary data indicate that these treatments could potentially have positive effects on a variety of outcomes (e.g., pain intensity, frequency of pain episodes, physical and psychological function), at least in the short term. Clinical trials are needed to evaluate the effects of neurofeedback and meditation training, and research is needed to identify the moderators of treatment benefits as well as better understand the mechanisms underlying the efficacy of all three of these treatments. The findings from such research could enhance overall treatment efficacy by: (1) providing an empirical basis for better patient-treatment matching; and (2) identifying specific mechanisms that could be targeted with treatment.

Keywords: efficacy; hypnosis; meditation; mindfulness; neurofeedback; pediatric chronic pain; psychological neuromodulatory treatments.

Publication types

  • Review