Full article available: https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpain.2024.1253700/full

Mini Review: Psychological/Behavioral Interventions for Emerging Adults with Chronic Pain

Judith G. Foy1*, Sandra Kechichian2, Michael Foy1, Maisa Ziadni3

1Department of Psychological Science, Loyola Marymount University, Los Angeles, CA, United States of America

2Graduate School of Education and Psychology, Pepperdine University, Malibu, CA, United States of America

3Department of Anesthesiology, Perioperative and Pain Medicine, Stanford University School of Medicine, Palo Alto, CA, United States of America



* Correspondence:
Corresponding Author

Keywords: emerging adult1, chronic pain2, psychological3, pain intervention4, mini-review5



Emerging adults, of whom significant numbers report chronic pain, are characterized as having unique needs and challenges. Psychological/behavioral treatments, found to be beneficial for reducing pain outcomes in children and adults, are understudied in emerging adults. Following a systematic review of the literature, our objective is to report on quantitative studies of psychological/behavioral interventions for chronic pain in emerging adults.


We conducted a search of six databases (Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials, Google Scholar, ProQuest, PsycINFO, PubMed, and Web of Science) and reference sections in dissertations and systematic reviews to 4/29/2023.  Keywords and phrases were search term combinations of “chronic/persistent pain”, “emerging/young adults,” and “intervention/treatment” using Boolean logic.


Our review resulted in 37 articles, of which 2 duplicates were removed, and 31 were further excluded by a screening process based on various inclusionary and exclusionary criteria. The search yielded four studies on psychological/behavioral interventions (yoga, acceptance and commitment therapy and relaxation), all of which positively affected the pain experience and/or pain-related outcomes. These included studies presented issues in design, such as not being blinded or randomized, having a small sample size, and potential confounds that were not reported or examined.


The low number of studies reveals a large gap in the literature and is a call-to-action to further expand our understanding of effective and safer psychological/behavioral therapies for chronic pain in emerging adults. Successful pain management during this developmental phase may help young adults achieve positive trajectories for personal, occupational, relational, and health aspects of their lives.