The purpose of this study was to compare the effectiveness of brief, recorded instructions in the use of mindfulness or cognitive distraction for coping with acute, experimentally induced pain. We compared these interventions to a relaxation condition. We used a mixed design two-way analysis of variance including one within-subjects variable, time of measurement, and one between-subjects variable, experimental condition. Dependent variables included objective pain tolerance and subjective perceptions of pain intensity and pain unpleasantness. After excluding participants who reached the ceiling during the pretest pain measurement, our final sample included 145 college students. Results indicated a significant effect of time of measurement, such that participants experienced increased pain tolerance and decreased pain intensity and pain unpleasantness at posttest, F (1, 142) = 68.23, P < 0.001, partial η2 = 0.33; F (1, 141) = 33.87, P < 0.001, partial η2 = 0.19; and F (1, 141) = 79.44, P < 0.001, partial η2 = 0.36, respectively. The interactions between experimental condition and time of measurement were nonsignificant, Ps > 0.156. These findings suggest that very brief instruction in the use of mindfulness, cognitive distraction, or relaxation is an effective method for coping with acute pain. Future research should investigate whether there is some minimum duration of intervention necessary for a treatment effect and whether the length of intervention interacts with intervention content. Clinical implications include the possibility that instruction in psychological methods for coping with pain may be a useful adjunctive or alternative treatment approach to the use of opioid medications. KEYWORDS: Acute Pain, Cognitive Distraction, Mindfulness, Relaxation, Coping, Cold Pressor
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