Skip to main content

Pain Research—Information for Investigators


As noted in NCCIH’s Strategic Plan, pain management is a key focus of the Center’s research efforts. Pain is a major public health problem and is the most common reason why Americans use complementary and integrative health practices. Conventional care often fails to manage chronic pain effectively, and other approaches to relieve or reduce pain and increase functional ability are needed. Research studies have shown that some complementary health modalities may reduce pain associated with some conditions. Developing and improving complementary approaches and integrative treatment strategies for managing symptoms such as pain is one of the research strategies emphasized in the strategic plan.

NCCIH Priorities for Pain-Related Research

NCCIH pain research spans basic, mechanistic, and translational studies and clinical trials. Priorities include:

  • Elucidating biological targets and pathways by which complementary/integrative approaches (e.g., natural products, mind and body interventions) have clinical benefit for analgesia, especially for chronic pain conditions
  • Ascertaining the duration of physiological effects and the optimal dose for sustained analgesic benefits
  • Examining interactions of nonpharmacologic and pharmacologic interventions for potential additive effects, possible synergy, and potential for safe reduction of opioids and other analgesic drugs
  • Developing methodologies and early phase feasibility to appropriately stage clinical trials (see NCCIH Research Framework)
  • Assessing the potential of combining biofeedback or neurofeedback with mind and body interventions to enhance therapeutic benefits
  • Developing further understanding of the mechanisms of action and the biophysical characteristics of non-invasive neuromodulation (transcranial direct current stimulation, ultrasound, etc.) in preclinical model systems.

NCCIH Funding Opportunities

NCCIH issues specific funding opportunity announcements (FOAs) for narrow areas of high priority. In addition, NCCIH will accept pain research applications through a number of investigator-initiated grant mechanisms. These include the Parent R01 and R21 announcements, the Omnibus SBIR (R43/R44) and STTR (R41/R42) announcements, and the various training mechanisms, including fellowships (F), mentored training (K), and institutional training (T).

Examples of FOAs related to pain research include:

  • Mechanisms, Models, Measurement, & Management in Pain Research (R01 and R21)
  • Research on Chronic Overlapping Pain Conditions (R01 and R21)
  • Exploratory Clinical Trials of Mind and Body Interventions for NCCIH High Priority Research Topics (R34)
  • Arts-Based Approaches in Palliative Care for Symptom Management (R01)
  • Clinical Evaluation of Adjuncts to Opioid Therapies for the Treatment of Chronic Pain (R01)
  • Biology of Manual Therapies (R01 and R21)
  • Neurobiology of Migraine (R01)
  • Advancing the Science of Geriatric Palliative Care (R01)
  • Behavioral & Integrative Treatment Development Program (R01)

Past NCCIH Research

NCCIH Contact Information

You may find it helpful to discuss your proposed research with an NCCIH staff member prior to submitting a grant application. Each program staff member is responsible for coordinating research portfolios in various scientific areas.

Review scientific portfolio areas and contact a NCCIH Program Director