Pain-Related Research

Pain scale with smiley face indicators that range from no pain, hurts a little, hurts a little more, hurts even more, hurts a whole lot, to hurts worst. Surrounding text states, “Pelvic pain can be a sign that something is wrong. Talk to your health care provider.” The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development logos appear at the bottom.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that more than 20% of Americans live with chronic pain. Understanding how to manage and treat pain is a central goal of NICHD research. For instance:

  • Pain is a common feature of many gynecological conditions, such as endometriosis, pelvic adhesions, and pelvic inflammatory disease. Pain and pain management also are routine parts of the pelvic surgeries used to treat certain gynecologic conditions.
  • Most critically ill and injured children require short-term pain management while receiving care in the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit and longer duration pain management after discharge.
  • Rehabilitation for physical impairments, such as traumatic brain injury, and disabilities, such as cerebral palsy, must include strategies for managing acute and chronic pain.
  • Patient perceptions of pain can be psychologically mediated and modified nonpharmacologically.
  • Understanding risk factors for chronic pain and preventing acute-to-chronic pain transition are critical for improving developmental and health outcomes.
  • Identifying safe and effective options for pain management is a critical aspect of prenatal and postpartum care, care during labor and childbirth, and routine or intensive newborn care.

Pain is one of the most common reasons for a person to be prescribed opioids, increasing the risk of opioid use disorder. For more on NICHD’s research related to opioids, visit our Opioid-Related Research Supported by NICHD webpage.

NICHD supports and conducts multiple efforts related to pain in a variety of groups, including children, women of reproductive age, as well as pregnant and lactating women, and people with disabilities. The institute is also part of the NIH Pain Consortium, which works to enhance pain research and promote collaboration across NIH. We describe some of NICHD's pain-related efforts on this page.

Research Areas and Funding
Research News

Research Areas and Funding

Several NICHD components support pain-related research.

Division of Extramural Research (DER)

Visit for a full list of NICHD DER program areas and priorities.

  • Child Development and Behavior Branch: Supports research on behavioral/psychological approaches to pain management and prevention, risk factors for chronic pain, prevention of transition from acute-to-chronic pain, and patient-provider decision-making regarding pain management.
    Contact: Karen Lee, M.D., M.P.H.
  • Gynecologic Health and Disease Branch: Supports multidisciplinary clinical, translational, and basic research on gynecologic pain conditions including chronic pelvic pain, painful menses (dysmenorrhea), and vulvodynia, among others, as well as investigations underlying the mechanisms both in common with and distinct from other chronic pain conditions.
    Contact: Candace Tingen, Ph.D.
  • Obstetric and Pediatric Pharmacology and Therapeutics Branch: Supports developmental pharmacology and other initiatives that explore mechanisms of drug action in pregnant and lactating women and pediatric populations, including drugs used to manage pain, pain biomarkers, and pain measurement.
    Contact: Zhaoxia Ren, M.D., Ph.D.
  • Pediatric Trauma and Critical Illness Branch: Addresses pain management for critically ill or injured children, as well as pain management for children with special health care needs, including those who have had adverse childhood experiences.
    Contact: Valerie Maholmes, Ph.D., CAS
  • Pregnancy and Perinatology Branch: Supports development of equipment, devices, tests, and other diagnostic, monitoring, and therapeutic strategies to eliminate or dramatically reduce the magnitude of pain during routine or intensive newborn care.
    Contact: David Clark

Division of Intramural Research (DIR)

Visit for a full list of NICHD DIR affinity groups.

National Center for Medical Rehabilitation Research (NCMRR)

NCMRR supports basic, translational, and clinical research to help enhance the health, productivity, independence, and quality of life of people with physical disabilities. Pain-related research interests include rehabilitative interventions and strategies involving pharmaceutical, stimulation, and bioengineering approaches; exercise; motor training; occupational therapy; and behavioral modifications for management of pain in individuals with physical disabilities. Rehabilitation prevention and treatment strategies for mitigating pain, a key secondary condition associated with physical impairments and disabilities, are strongly encouraged. For a full list of research program areas and priorities, visit
Contact: Susan Marden, Ph.D.

Pain-Related Notices of Funding Opportunities (NOFOs) for NICHD (As of October 2023)

Please note that this list includes pain-related NOFOs outside of The NIH Helping to End Addiction Long-term® Initiative (NIH HEAL Initiative®). Visit the NIH HEAL Initiative website for a listing of HEAL NOFOs.

  • RFA-HD-24-012: HEAL Initiative: HEAL KIDS (Knowledge, Innovation, and Discovery Studies) Pain Program Resource and Data Center (U24 Clinical Trial Not Allowed)
  • RFA-HD-24-011: HEAL Initiative: HEAL KIDS (Knowledge, Innovation, and Discovery Studies) Pain: Acute Pain Clinical Trials Program (U01 Clinical Trial Required)
  • NOT-HD-23-025: Notice announcing HEAL Initiative Technical Assistance Webinar: HEAL KIDS (Knowledge, Innovation, and Discovery Studies) Pain: Acute Pain Clinical Trials Program (U01 Clinical Trials and U24 Resource and Data Center) (Webinar Recording & FAQs)
  • NOT-HD-19-020: Mechanisms Underlying the Contribution of Sleep Disturbances to Pain
  • PAR-23-131: Translational Research in Maternal and Pediatric Pharmacology and Therapeutics (R21 Clinical Trial Optional)
  • PAR-23-130: Translational Research in Maternal and Pediatric Pharmacology and Therapeutics (R01 Clinical Trial Optional)
  • PAR-23-112: Addressing the Impact of Structural Racism and Discrimination on Minority Health and Health Disparities (R01 Clinical Trial Optional)
  • RFA-HD-24-010: National Centers for Translational Research in Reproduction and Infertility (NCTRI) (P50 Clinical Trial Optional)
  • RFA-HD-24-007: Understanding and Mitigating Health Disparities experienced by People with Disabilities caused by Ableism (R01 Clinical Trial Optional)
  • RFA-MH-24-280: BRAIN Initiative: Development and Validation of Novel Tools to Probe Cell-Specific and Circuit-Specific Processes in the Brain (R01 Clinical Trial Not Allowed)
  • RFA-NS-24-005: BRAIN Initiative: Optimization of Instrumentation and Device Technologies for Recording and Modulation in the Nervous System (U01 Clinical Trials Not Allowed)
  • RFA-NS-24-004: BRAIN Initiative: New Technologies and Novel Approaches for Recording and Modulation in the Nervous System (R01 Clinical Trial Not Allowed)
  • RFA-OD-23-014: Understanding Chronic Conditions Understudied Among Women (R01 Clinical Trial Optional)
  • RFA-OD-23-013: Understanding Chronic Conditions Understudied Among Women (R21 Clinical Trial Optional)

Research News

The following list includes some pain-related findings from NICHD-funded research. Visit to search all NICHD news items for more pain-related findings.


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