The human body emits signals when in trouble. Catching these signals is called Biofeedback and can lead to a possible remedy
Biofeedback is a technique of training individuals to improve their health by becoming aware of certain physiological body functions and controlling them in order to achieve a relaxed state. Find out more!
Processes that can be manipulated and measured include brain waves, muscle tone, heart rate, skin conductance and pain perception. Most of us have unknowingly used biofeedback when checking our weight or using a thermometer to check if we have fever. The weighing scale and thermometer are instruments which give us feedback that allow us to take the next step to remedy the situation and feel or get better.
What is biofeedback all about?
You must have heard of the saying – ‘the body doesn’t lie’. This means that when confronted with a stressful or painful stimulus, even though a person may be outwardly calm, he will start to sweat, his heart will beat faster and his blood pressure will rise, his muscles will become tense and the hair on his skin will stand up.
If you suffer from chronic headaches, migraines or have incontinence, you may definitely benefit from biofeedback. This technique is done by psychiatrists, physicians, psychologists, nurses and dentists. It can also be done by healthcare professionals trained in biofeedback who are trained therapists. Before attempting biofeedback, you must have a complete physical and sometimes, a neurological examination by the doctor.
You will be taught different mental activities that help to relax you. The ones that do the job best for you are the ones you should turn to when in poor health or an undesirable situation.
Types of biofeedback
Three common types of biofeedback used are:
- Thermal biofeedback – measures skin temperature
- Electromyogram (EMG) – measures muscle tension
- Neurofeedback or electroencephalogram (EEG) – measures brain activity
How does biofeedback work?
Scientists do not fully understand how biofeedback works. Relaxation techniques are taught in order to modify behaviour when confronted with a stressful situation. Electrodes are attached to the skin and the information is transmitted to a monitoring device which translates the information into different pitches of sound, a visual metre that changes in brightness or lines on a graph on a monitor.
In biofeedback, the results are measured in a way that a layperson can comprehend. Hence it is applicable to everyone. Regular sessions are important to achieve good results. Chronic conditions like high blood pressure require more sessions than therapy for headaches or incontinence.
Advantages of biofeedback
- People are receptive to try biofeedback even if they have not tried it before as there are no side-effects associated with it.
- Results are quick – in about ten sessions the person feels a noticeable difference.
- It can be used successfully in children and adults.
- After getting the know-how from a qualified therapist it can be practised at home whenever needed.
Medical conditions that benefit from biofeedback
- Tension and mixed headaches
- Digestive system disorders like constipation
- High blood pressure
- Low blood pressure
- Abnormal heart rhythm called cardiac arrhythmias
- Urinary incontinence
- Head injury
- Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in children
- Anxiety disorder
- Excessive sweating or hyperhidrosis
- Raynaud’s disease – a condition which decreases blood circulation leading to cold hands and nose
- Low back pain
- Pelvic pain
- Phantom limb pain – occurring in people whose limb has been amputated but they still feel pain although the body part is absent
- Spinal cord injuries
- Learning disabilities
- Fibromyalgia – a condition that causes severe muscular pain
Biofeedback is a technique where the patient learns to relax by observing and controlling physiological processes that we most often do not think about. It relies on the thoughts and behaviour of the patient to achieve tangible results. Thus, it is a reminder that the person’s emotions and thinking are important in improving medical symptoms and ultimately the person’s overall health and well-being.
Photograph via sxc.hu
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