Biofeedback for Chronic Pain


In treating clients for a variety of disorders, clinicians began to notice that EEG biofeedback often had a positive effect on chronic pain.  The results were somewhat unexpected.  After several years of observation, we now believe that EEG can be a powerful adjunctive tool in the treatment of chronic pain.  In general, when the human sensory system is presented with a constant stimulus, there is a gradual loss of a response to that stimulus.  This is known from common experiences with both vision and hearing.  This process is called accommodation.  The only known exception to accommodation is the body's response to persistent pain.  In this case, the response is to gradually increase the sensitivity to the stimulus, i.e., lowering of the local pain threshold.  Perhaps this has a particular survival value.  We have reasonable evidence to conclude that the hypothalamus increases the weight set point after dieting.  This is done for survival.  It therefore makes sense that the pain threshold may be lowered for survival purposes.

The mechanism by which EEG biofeedback works is to feed the client information about his various brainwave states which correlates with various physical and mental states.  Through a training process, the person is then able to bring his brainwave states under voluntary control.  Therefore, he can increase the underaroused brain or slow the over-aroused brain.  This has been shown clinically to affect the chronic pain condition.  It is like any other learning process.  By giving appropriate feedback, the individual is able to gradually gain control over his psychological and physiological functioning.  The more EEG biofeedback training a person undergoes the more mastery he gains.

EEG training is presumed effective in remediating the chronic pain because the brain is disregulated.  Biofeedback effects normalization of mood and of the pain threshold.  Effectively then, the brain has simply recalibrated the pain threshold.  It no longer interprets all incoming stimuli as sufficient to constitute pain.

For information about brainwave biofeedback training, contact Rick D. Thomas, Ph.D. (816) 331-0374 or

Copyright © 2008 Rick D. Thomas Ph.D., LLC

All Rights Reserved.
Click here for a map to my practice.