Get access

The Neuromatrix Theory of Pain: Implications for Selected Nonpharmacologic Methods of Pain Relief for Labor


  • Kimberly K. Trout CNM, PhD(c)

    Corresponding authorSearch for more papers by this author
    • 1Kimberly K. Trout, CNM, PhD(c), is a doctoral candidate at the University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing in Philadelphia.

University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing, Nursing Education Building, Philadelphia, PA 19104–6096. E-mail:


Women experience the pain of labor differently, with many factors contributing to their overall perception of pain. The neuromatrix theory of pain provides a framework that may explain why selected nonpharmacologic methods of pain relief can be quite effective for the relief of pain for the laboring woman. The concept of a pain “neuromatrix” suggests that perception of pain is simultaneously modulated by multiple influences. The theory was developed by Ronald Melzack and represents an expansion beyond his original “gate theory” of pain, first proposed in 1965 with P. D. Wall. This article reviews several nonpharmacologic methods of pain relief with implications for the practicing clinician. Providing adequate pain relief during labor and birth is an important component of caring for women during labor and birth.