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Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine
Volume 2 (2005), Issue 2, Pages 149-159

Complementary and Alternative Medicine Approaches for Pediatric Pain: A Review of the State-of-the-science

Pediatric Pain Program, Departments of Pediatrics, Anesthesiology, Psychiatry and Biobehavioral Sciences, David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, Los Angeles, CA, USA

Received 11 January 2005; Accepted 7 April 2005

Copyright © 2005 Jennie C. I. Tsao and Jennie C. I. Tsao. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


In recent years, the use of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) in pediatric populations has increased considerably, especially for chronic conditions such as cancer, rheumatoid arthritis and cystic fibrosis in which pain may be a significant problem. Despite the growing popularity of CAM approaches for pediatric pain, questions regarding the efficacy of these interventions remain. This review critically evaluates the existing empirical evidence for the efficacy of CAM interventions for pain symptoms in children. CAM modalities that possess a published literature, including controlled trials and/or multiple baseline studies, that focused on either chronic or acute, procedural pain were included in this review. The efficacy of the CAM interventions was evaluated according to the framework developed by the American Psychological Association (APA) Division 12 Task Force on Promotion and Dissemination of Psychological Procedures. According to these criteria, only one CAM approach reviewed herein (self-hypnosis/guided imagery/relaxation for recurrent pediatric headache) qualified as an empirically supported therapy (EST), although many may be considered possibly efficacious or promising treatments for pediatric pain. Several methodological limitations of the existing literature on CAM interventions for pain problems in children are highlighted and future avenues for research are outlined.