Biofeedback for Headaches

It was great to see biofeedback getting a bit of attention in a recent column in the Detroit Free Press. Here is the column:

Dr. Paul Donohue: Your Health
Biofeedback help for headaches no hoax

Dear Dr. Donohue: From time to time, I have headaches that make my life really miserable. I have tried many pain relievers, but none works dependably for me.

I have also seen my share of doctors, including neurologists. None of them says these are migraine headaches. None of their suggestions has helped. A friend, who is into alternative medical treatments, suggests I try biofeedback. What is your opinion of it? Is it a hoax?


Dear B.N.: Biofeedback isn’t a hoax. It has a legitimate role in the treatment of many illnesses and in the control of pain. It’s a way to teach the body how to respond to pain and how to minimize it. It’s an attempt to get the body to heal itself.

If you go the biofeedback route, see a person who is well-trained in this kind of therapy. It requires a professional who knows the techniques and how to apply them.

Your family doctor might be able to help you locate such a person.

For people suffering from headaches, the therapist applies sensors to the scalp. They monitor the action of scalp muscles. If the muscles are contracting, as they do in tension headaches, they transmit that information to a screen so it is displayed.

The therapist teaches the person how to relax the contracting muscles. That is seen on the screen, too.

With relaxation of the scalp muscles, pain should ease or go away. This doesn’t work in one session. You have to practice the technique until you’ve mastered it.

Biofeedback doesn’t work for all people or for all illnesses. When it is successful, it’s a wonderful way to control pain without resorting to drugs.

Write to Dr. Donohue at P.O. Box 536475, Orlando, FL 32853-6475. Readers may also order health newsletters from

From The Detroit News:

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