Neurofeedback: Effective in the Management of Chronic Pain
Dr Shelley Hyman
Chronic pain refers to pain that lasts longer than six months. Chronic pain can significantly disrupt an individual's life and, depending on the severity, it has the potential to be completely incapacitating.
Management of chronic pain is currently focused on medication, however many of the medications administered have proven ineffective or are associated with negative side effects. Neurofeedback is a nonpharmacological treatment that involves teaching participants to gain control over their brain states.
In 2012 Dianne Nolen and colleagues reviewed the existing literature on chronic pain and neurofeedback. Nolen and colleagues reference several studies that indicate that various brain regions associated with pain can be self-regulated and controlled through the administration of neurofeedback.
One particular study evaluated in the review illustrated that neurofeedback was associated with significant decrease in pain intensity in participants with chronic pain, whereas a control group exhibited no such decrease in pain.
A 2013 study conducted by Professor Mark Jensen and colleagues, investigated the impact of neurofeedback in the management of chronic pain in patients with spinal cord injury (SCI). A sample of ten participants with SCI experiencing chronic pain were administered a total of 12 sessions of neurofeedback each.
Intensity of pain was evaluated before and after each neurofeedback session. Participants indicated that the severity of their pain was immediately reduced after the administration of neurofeedback. The study revealed that 12 sessions of neurofeedback was associated with a significant effect on pain intensity that was still evident three months after the conclusion of the treatment.
Participants in the study were satisfied with the neurofeedback treatment and reported that it was helpful in the management of their pain.
- Jensen, P. M., Gerts, J. K., Kupper, E. A., Braden, L. A., Howe, D. J., Hakimian, S. & Sherlin, H. L. (2013) Steps towards developing an EEG biofeedback treatment for chronic pain, Applied Psychophysiological Biofeedback, 38, 101-108
- Nolen, D., Taams, N., Talahutu, E. & Holstege, J. (2012). Neurofeedback: self-regulation of pain using real-time fMRI: A systematic review, Erasmus Journal of Medicine, 2, (2) 29-33