Behavioral covariation in the treatment of chronic pain

Michael J. Kalsher, Michael F. Cataldo, Rebecca M. Deal, Belinda Traughber, William R. Jankel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


The successful use of operant procedures to alter behaviors associated with various medical conditions suggests that such behaviors may be learned and that the principles of learning may be applied not only to treatment but also to the study of the pathogenesis of illness behavior. The present study, conducted within an ongoing neuromuscular research project, assessed the covariation of behaviors associated with chronic pain within and across behavioral and drug approaches to treatment. Problems of screaming and five other behaviors (including self-reports of pain) were measured across conditions of varying behavioral contingencies (noncontingent reinforcement vs the removal of reinforcement contingent upon screaming) and varying administration (time since medication and dosage) of Parsidol during attempts to treat the muscle pain of a 24-year-old male with a severe, chronic neuromuscular disorder diagnosed as dystonia musculorum deformans (DMD). Results indicated that: (a) pain behaviors covaried during behavioral and drug conditions even though the behavioral intervention only targeted screaming; (b) effects were greater on nontargeted behaviors during periods that followed rather than preceded drug administration; (c) in contrast to behavioral observation data, physiological measures of neuromuscular activity (EMG) did not differ across conditions. These results suggest that functional response-response relationships exist in patients as the result of their illness experience.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)331-339
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Behavior Therapy and Experimental Psychiatry
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 1985

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Clinical Psychology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)


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