Pain pp 75-81 | Cite as

Psychophysiological Rationale for the Application of Biofeedback in the Alleviation of Pain

  • Charles F. Stroebel
  • Bernard C. Glueck


By elucidating the apparent psychophysiologic mechanisms affected by biofeedback in the treatment of psychosomatic conditions, considerable qualification must be extended to sweeping claims currently being made for the application of this new treatment modality to the problem of pain. This discussion will conclude that biofeedback is largely ineffective after the onset of the sensation of pain, except in reducing the level of activation of the emergency fight or flight response and in reducing muscular “bracing against” the pain. However, clinical experience does indicate that biofeedback can be highly effective in a preventive sense, altering physiology so that the antecedent mechanisms leading to the production of pain do not occur. The psychophysiologic mechanisms presumed to be operating in muscular contraction and vascular headache pain will be used as illustrative, since experience in treating these conditions with biofeedback is most extensive at the present time.


Tension Headache Flight Response Vascular Headache Ergotamine Tartrate Thermal Biofeedback 


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  1. 1.
    Budzynski, T.H. , Stoyva, J.M., and Adler, C.S.: Feedback-induced muscle relaxation: Application to tension headache, Behav. Ther. Exp. Psychiatry, 1:205–211, 1970.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
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    Glueck, B.C., and Stroebel, C.F.: Biofeedback and meditation in the treatment of psychiatric Illnesses, Compr. Psychiatry, 16:303–321, 1975.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
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    Sargent, J.D., Walters, E.D., and Green, E.E.: Psychosomatic self regulation of migraine headaches, Sem. in Psychiatry, 3:416–428, 1973.Google Scholar
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    Stroebel, C.F., and Glueck, B.C.: Biofeedback treatment in medicine and psychiatry, In Birk, L.(ed.) Biofeedback: Behavioral Medicine, New York, Grune and Stratton, 1973.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Plenum Press, New York 1976

Authors and Affiliations

  • Charles F. Stroebel
    • 1
  • Bernard C. Glueck
    • 1
  1. 1.Institute of LivingHartfordUSA

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