Symptom-specific psychophysiological responses in chronic pain patients

H. Flor, N. Birbaumer, M. M. Schugens, W. Lutzenberger

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Symptom-specific psychophysiological responding was assessed in 20 chronic back pain patients, 20 patients suffering from temporomandibular pain and dysfunction, and 20 matched healthy controls. Surface EMG from the lower and upper back, the masseter, and the biceps muscles, and heart rate and skin conductance level were continuously recorded during adaptation, resting baseline, and stressful and neutral imagery phases. Univariate and multivariate analyses of variance were performed on raw data as well as data corrected for autocorrelation. The results showed significantly higher EMG reactivity which was lateralized to the left side at the patients' site of pain but not distal sites. This hyperreactivity was observed only during stressful imagery. The healthy controls displayed a significantly higher response in heart rate, but skin conductance level was not significantly different. The results are interpreted as indicative of idiosyncratic muscular response patterns to personally relevant situations at the site of pain in patients suffering from chronic muscular pain.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)452-460
Number of pages9
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 1992


  • Chronic back pain
  • EMG
  • Symptom specificity
  • Temporomandibular pain and dysfunction

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Physiology (medical)
  • Psychology(all)
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology


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