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The Power of Biofeedback

Pain expert Scott Fishman, M.D. explains the concept of biofeedback.

Dr. Fishman is chief of the division of pain medicine and associate professor of anesthesiology at the University of California, Davis. He is the author of The War on Pain.

Q: I am 66 years old and my doctor says I have poor circulation in my arteries that is causing me to have leg pain. My doctor has suggested that I have biofeedback training to relieve this pain. What is biofeedback?

A: Sometimes patients hear that we want to use the power of the mind to treat pain, and they may suspect that we may not believe that their pain is actually real. This is truly quite the contrary.

Patients in pain are very similar to power athletes who perform elite sports. We teach them techniques to improve bodily performance and overcome distressing pain sensations.

Biofeedback, which employs the use of electrical technology, has helped people gain control over such things as anxiety, high blood pressure and pain associated with "claudication," which is normally caused by vascular insufficiency of the limbs. There are many other different forms of mind-body therapies as well as conventional therapies that can help with this problem as well.

I always suggest that patients with these problems consult with a pain clinic that has a multidisciplinary approach. In other words, consult a clinic that offers a wide variety of tools and techniques for controlling pain.