Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



First Advisor

Dr. Alan D. Poling

Second Advisor

Dr. Neil Kent

Third Advisor

Dr. Marilyn Mallott

Fourth Advisor

Dr. Leonard Beuving


A number of studies have demonstrated that both progressive relaxation training and biofeedback are effective in reducing chronic low back pain. Floatation-REST (restricted environmental stimulation therapy), a relatively new method developed for relaxation, has demonstrated promising results and appears to be particularly well suited for the low back pain patient. The primary hypothesis of this project was that REST would reduce pain as evidenced by changes in physiological, behavioral and self-report measures commonly associated with chronic pain reduction. A secondary hypothesis was generated after the first of three experiments: that employment would be an important variable in determining the effectiveness of REST on reducing pain. Experiment 1 examined two unemployed low back pain subjects who were not in litigation, were not receiving medical treatment for their pain condition and were not using pain medication. A single subject A-B-A design was used and each subject was exposed to REST after specific criterion variables demonstrated stability during baseline. Exposure to REST did not result in a significant reduction in measures commonly associated with chronic pain and therefore did not support the major hypothesis. Experiment 2 examined two low back pain subjects who were employed. Otherwise, the design was identical to that for Experiment 1. In Experiment 2, exposure to REST resulted in changes in physiological, behavioral and self-report measures suggesting a reduction in pain for both subjects. Changes observed in these measures during REST were generally maintained during the return-to-baseline condition. Thus, it was difficult to determine if these changes were a direct result of exposure to REST, or if they were due to nonspecific treatment effects. Experiment 3 was modified as a multiple baseline across subjects design; otherwise it was designed to replicate Experiment 2. The design change was utilized to further determine if the effects observed in Experiment 2 were due to REST or to nonspecific treatment effects. Results of Experiment 3 suggested, similar to Experiment 2, that REST has a pain-reducing effect, and that the effects were treatment specific. These results lend further support for both the primary and secondary hypothesis.

Access Setting

Dissertation-Open Access