Discrimination of muscle tension in chronic pain patients and healthy controls

Herta Flor, Markus M. Schugens, Niels Birbaumer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The purpose of this study was to assess the perception of muscle tension in chronic pain patients and healthy controls. Twenty chronic back pain patients, 20 patients who suffered from temporomandibular pain and dysfunction, and 20 healthy controls were instructed to produce eight different levels of muscle contraction in either the m. masseter or the m. erector spinae. Each level was produced three times; trials were presented in random order. Analyses of the accuracy and the sensitivity of discrimination of muscle tension levels revealed that the patients were less able to perceive muscle contraction levels correctly and that they underestimated their actual levels of muscle tension. Patients and controls did not differ in the extent to which they contracted muscles not involved in the task. Patients suffering from musculoskeletal disorders seem to display a genuine deficit in discrimination of muscle tension that is related to neither local physiological changes at the site of pain, lack of motivation, inattention, nor fatigue.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)165-177
Number of pages13
JournalBiofeedback and Self-Regulation
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Sep 1992


  • chronic back pain
  • EMG
  • perception
  • TMPD

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)


Dive into the research topics of 'Discrimination of muscle tension in chronic pain patients and healthy controls'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this