How is Biofeedback Used Today?

What is Biofeedback?

Biofeedback is a treatment technique in which people are trained to self-regulate their health by using feedback from their own bodies. Physiotherapists, dentist, chiropractors are just a few of the training professionals using biofeedback in their everyday practice.

Often our homes are filled with biofeedback tools, such as, a scale or thermometer. Though we often use a thermistor to check whether we are running a fever, the other use for this devise could be used to treat migraine conditions. Biofeedback allows you to become an active participant in your healing and/or health maintenance. People are trained to improve their health by using feedback from their own bodies. You can learn to identify the changes your body makes in response to stress and to bring these responses under your control. This is accomplished through a painless, non-invasive method.

For patients, the biofeedback machine acts as a kind of sixth sense which allows them to receive auditory or visual feedback from the activity inside their bodies. One commonly used type of machine, for example, picks up electrical signals in the muscles. It translates these signals into a form that patients can detect: beeps or a bowling ball moving across the screen. With practice these training techniques become automatic and occur without the client knowing and in turn improve the symptoms or completely ameliorate them.

How is Biofeedback Used Today?

  • Migraine headaches, tension headaches, and many other types of pain
  • TMD
  • Disorders of the digestive system
  • High blood pressure and its opposite, low blood pressure
  • Cardiac arrhythmias (abnormalities, sometimes dangerous, in the rhythm of the heartbeat)
  • Raynaud's disease (a circulatory disorder that causes uncomfortably cold hands)
  • Paralysis and other movement disorders
  • Stroke
  • Urinary incontinence

Patients' Responsibilities

Biofeedback places unusual demands on patients. They must examine their day-to-day lives to learn if they may be contributing to their own distress. They must recognize that they can, by their own efforts, remedy some physical ailments. They must commit themselves to practicing biofeedback or relaxation exercises every day. They must change bad habits, even ease up on some good ones. Most important, they must accept much of the responsibility for maintaining their own health.

How Does Biofeedback Work?

Most patients who benefit from biofeedback are trained to relax and modify their behavior. Most scientists believe that relaxation is a key component in biofeedback treatment of many disorders, particularly those brought on or made worse by stress. Their reasoning is based on what is known about the effects of stress on the body.

The typical pattern of response to emergencies probably emerged during the time when all humans faced mostly physical threats. Although the “threats” we now live with are seldom physical, the body reacts as if they were: The pupils dilate to let in more light. Sweat pours out, reducing the chance of skin cuts. Blood vessels near the skin contract to reduce bleeding, while those in the brain and muscles dilate to increase the oxygen supply. The gastrointestinal tract, including the stomach and intestines, slows down to reduce the energy expensed in digestion. The heart beats faster, and blood pressure rises. Normally, people calm down when a stressful event is over especially if they have done something to cope with it. For instance, imagine your own reactions if you’re walking down a dark street and hear someone running toward you. You get scared. Your body prepared you to ward off an attacker or run fast enough to get away. When you do escape, you gradually relax.

Machines can detect a person’s internal bodily functions with far greater sensitivity and precision than a person can alone. This information may be valuable for self-regulation and control. Both patients and therapists use biofeedback to gauge and direct the progress of treatment. We offer sEMG, skin conductance, skin temperature, respiratory rate, EEG and heart rate variability biofeedback modalities.

Some of the conditions benefiting from biofeedback are hypertension, fibromyalgia, attention deficit disorder, Raynaud’s Syndrome, colitis, ulcers, chronic pain, urinary incontinence, headaches and anxiety.

Three professional biofeedback organizations, the Association for Applied Psychophysiology and Biofeedback (AAPB), Biofeedback Certification International Alliance (BCIA), and the International Society for Neurofeedback and Research (ISNR), arrived at a consensus definition of biofeedback in 2008:

“Biofeedback is a process that enables an individual to learn how to change physiological activity for the purposes of improving health and performance. Precise instruments measure physiological activity such as brainwaves, heart function, breathing, muscle activity, and skin temperature. These instruments rapidly and accurately ‘feed back’ information to the user. The presentation of this information — often in conjunction with changes in thinking, emotions, and behavior — supports desired physiological changes. Over time, these changes can endure without continued use of an instrument.”

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