Pain Response to Voluntary Muscle Tension Increases and Biofeedback Efficacy in Tension Headache




The hypothesis that patients reporting an association between head pain and voluntary muscle tension increases could react more positively to EMG biofeedback was evaluated in 33 tension headache sufferers involved in a program of six training sessions and of a follow-up two months later. These patients were taught to increase their frontal muscle tension over 10 μvolts through biofeedback for a period of one minute at the first session and of two minutes at the second one. According to their subjective pain response, 14 patients were considered to show a positive association between head pain and muscle tension increases while the 19 others did not show such an association. The group of patients with a positive association between head pain and muscle tension showed a rapid symptomatic improvement which was partially lost as the training progressed, while the other reported a more linear gradual improvement. At follow-up, there was no difference in headache, drug usage and frontal EMG between the two groups. The differences in the shapes of the symptomatic responses are discussed in terms of patients’ expectations from the training.