Recent meta-analyses have shown 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 four databases. Articles were eligible if they reported on randomized controlled trials of MBIs for people with acute pain and included 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 (Hedge's g=0.52; [95%CI -0.241, 1.280]) or experimental settings (Hedge's g= 0.043; 95%CI [-0.161, 0.247]). There was a beneficial effect of MBIs on pain tolerance (Hedge's g=0.68; 95%CI [0.157, 1.282]) and pain threshold (Hedge's 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 (Hedge's g=0.159; 95%CI [-0.018, 0.419]) or experimental settings (Hedge's g=0.439; 95%CI [-0.164, 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.
It's difficult to conduct adequately controlled trials of mindfulness interventions but, nonetheless, little impact seen in this review of acute pain effect.
It appears that further investigations are required to draw conclusions regarding effectiveness. As the authors state, it is likely that variation in the type of MBI, the dose, duration and intensity of practice, the type of participants, or methodological issues such as the nature of the control group might all contribute to these mixed results.