The efficacy of mindfulness-based interventions in acute pain: a systematic review and meta-analysis

Pain. 2020 Aug;161(8):1698-1707. doi: 10.1097/j.pain.0000000000001877.


Recent meta-analyses have shown mindfulness-based interventions (MBIs) to be effective for chronic pain, but no pooled estimates of the effect of MBIs on acute pain are available. This meta-analysis was conducted to fill that gap. A literature search was conducted in 4 databases. Articles were eligible if they reported on randomized controlled trials of MBIs for people with acute pain and one of the following outcomes: pain severity, pain threshold, pain tolerance, or pain-related distress. Two authors independently extracted the data, assessed risk of bias, and provided GRADE ratings. Twenty-two studies were included. There was no evidence of an effect of MBIs on the primary outcome of pain severity in clinical {Hedges' g = 0.52; (95% confidence interval [CI] -0.241 to 1.280)} or experimental settings (Hedges' g = 0.04; 95% CI [-0.161 to 0.247]). There was a beneficial effect of MBIs on pain tolerance (Hedges' g = 0.68; 95% CI [0.157-1.282]) and pain threshold (Hedges' g = 0.72; 95% CI [0.210-1.154]) in experimental studies. There was no evidence of an effect of MBIs compared to control for pain-related distress in clinical (Hedges' g = 0.16; 95% CI [-0.018 to 0.419]) or experimental settings (Hedges' g = 0.44; 95% CI [-0.164 to 0.419]). GRADE assessment indicated that except for pain tolerance, the data were of low or very low quality. There is moderate evidence that MBIs are efficacious in increasing pain tolerance and weak evidence for pain threshold. However, there is an absence of good-quality evidence for the efficacy of MBIs for reducing the pain severity or pain-related distress in either clinical or experimental settings.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Acute Pain* / therapy
  • Humans
  • Mindfulness*
  • Pain Threshold