Your brain controls the entire functioning of your body by sending the appropriate signals from time to time. This amazing organ not only controls the involuntary actions such as your heartbeat, digestion, and breathing, it also directs involuntary actions by way of reflexes. When you jerk your hand back in response to something hot or cold, that’s your brain directing it to protect itself from burning. BioFeedback is a non-invasive technique that helps you learn to direct your thoughts to your body so it performs functions and heals itself.
What is Biofeedback Therapy
BioFeedback is a therapeutic technique where you learn to control your involuntary reflexes and responses to your environment. By training your conscious mind to control the functioning of your muscles, you eventually learn to restore health and wellness to your body. Using this therapy, you can treat or prevent problems like hypertension, chronic pain, migraines and headaches, and incontinence. BioFeedback teaches your conscious mind and thoughts to direct the functioning and relaxation of the particular muscles of the different sections of your body so the health issues are eliminated.
How the Therapy is Administered
Should you sign up for BioFeedback, the therapist begins by attaching electrodes to your skin or sensors on your fingers. These electrodes are connected to various icons on a computer monitor, each of which gives off a sound or movement. The different icons represent the many functions of your body such as heart rate, brain waves, breathing rate, blood pressure, sweating, muscle movement, and skin temperature.
Next, the therapist presents stressful situations so you react to them. As your blood pressure rises, you start to sweat, or breathe more quickly, the icons begin to flash or give off sounds. You can watch the responses occurring on the monitor and as you try to relax the stress, you’ll see them give you the relevant feedback.
BioFeedback sessions are always conducted in the controlled setting of your therapist’s office. But, these results are also conveyed back to your home computer. As the therapist helps you learn to relax the different muscles, you understand how to control them by controlling your thoughts. You can also practice in the comfort of your own home to speed up your training.
Over the next sessions, you learn to calm your mind and thus, calm the related muscles. You will also understand how your thoughts, emotions, feelings, and behavior affect the physiological functioning of your body. For instance, by calming your brain waves, you cure the headaches and migraines you’ve been experiencing.
A typical BioFeedback session might last from around 30 minutes to 90 minutes depending on the medical issues you have and how soon you learn to connect your thoughts with your body’s activity. After about 10 sessions, you’ll start to see the positives of the therapy. However, certain conditions such as high blood pressure may need you to take about 20 sessions before you see marked improvement.
BioFeedback Tools and Devices
Therapists use different kinds of Biofeedback tools and devices according to the health issues and the objectives you hope to achieve.
- Electromyogram (EMG): This device involves the study of muscular stress and contractions by placing sensors on the skeletal muscles of your body. It helps to measure the electrical activity that causes movements. It is used in case of issues like incontinence, retraining your muscles after an injury, much like physiotherapy, headaches, back pain, and anxiety. It helps you learn how to control your muscles.
- Heart rate variability (HRA): In case you have cardiac problems like chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), asthma, arrhythmia or irregular heartbeat, or anxiety, your therapist might opt to use this tool that measures and assesses your heart rate. Sensors are placed on your earlobes or fingers, wrists, chest or lower torso.
- Thermal or Temperature Measurement: This tool is used to treat Raynaud’s disease or headaches by monitoring skin temperature. It takes readings from sensors attached to the fingers and feet that measure the blood flow in your skin. Each time you feel stressed, your skin temperature drops making you feel cold and clammy. The tool alerts you to the stress so you can begin the relaxation techniques.
- Electrodermal activity (EDA): When you’re in pain or if you’re stressed, your body responds by sweating. This BioFeedback tool takes readings from the sensors attached to your fingers, palm, or wrist and measures the activity of your sweat glands along with the volume of sweat they produce. Accordingly, it helps you judge when you’re anxious or stressed.
- Neurofeedback or electroencephalography (EEG): Used to treat conditions like epilepsy, seizures, attention hyperactivity deficit disorders, and other such conditions, this tool measures and evaluates brain waves and activity. Scalp sensors or headbands are used to take readings. Typically, these devices alert you by sound to changes in the brain activity. For instance, when you’re calm during meditation exercises or when you’re stressed or about to have a seizure.
- Breathing Analyses: When conducting this type of BioFeedback, the therapist attaches sensors like bands on your chest and abdomen to record and evaluate your breathing scales and respiration rate. The readings from the sensors are relayed to an app that you can download into your phone or computer. Each time your breathing accelerates in response to various stimuli, the device alerts you so you can take the necessary actions to calm yourself.
Most devices record your body’s responses on a computer or mobile device. You can track the effects of your BioFeedback sessions over time and assess the progress you’re making. As you make progress and learn how to control your emotions and the body’s response to them, you can dispense with the equipment and devices.
Your therapist may help you learn different types of BioFeedback techniques to help you calm your mind and emotions so that your muscles are relaxed. Here are some of them:
- Deep breathing (where the patient breathes deeply to release tension and stress)
- Guided Imagery (where the patient focuses on a particular image such as a fruit or any other object to help relax the mind)
- Progressive muscle relaxation (where the patient contracts and releases the different muscles of the body in controlled succession)
- Meditation (where the patient learns to focus on positive thoughts and emotions and lets go of negative emotions)
- Use of computer graphics and prompts (where the computer guides the patient in the controlling of heart rate, breathing, and relaxing muscles)
Benefits the Therapy Provides
BioFeedback therapy can help people of all ages to train their minds to help them with various medical conditions. Here are some of the main issues that the therapy can help you deal with.
- Chronic pain in the abdomen, lower back, musculoskeletal pain with soreness in specific points or fibromyalgia, and temporomandibular joint disorders (TMJ) (Pain from rheumatoid arthritis can also be helped.)
- Headaches and migraines
- Urinary and fecal Incontinence
- Hypertension or high blood pressure
- Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
- Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
- Raynaud’s disease
- Chemotherapy side effects
- Irritable bowel syndrome
- Motion sickness
- Ringing in the ears (tinnitus)
- Sexual disorders
Why Choose BioFeedback?
BioFeedback is a natural therapy that has no side effects since it is non-invasive. Any person young or old can train his or her mind to relieve medical issues. Even if the therapy does not eliminate the issue altogether, it does help the patient manage it better and reduce the dependence on medications. For this reason, it can prove highly beneficial to people who cannot take conventional medications for various reasons or those that don’t respond well to drugs. Pregnant women can safely use BioFeedback when they cannot take medications for the duration of the pregnancy. Even so, it is advisable that you work with a certified therapist so you can reap the full benefits of this healing modality.
Learning BioFeedback therapy is a time-consuming process and can prove to be expensive if your insurance provider does not cover it. When choosing the therapist, ask all the questions you can regarding the expected time it can take you to train and the approximate number of sessions you might need. Inquire about the training the therapist has received, licensing, experience levels, and testimonials from past clients. You could even ask your regular physician to recommend a therapist.
Any Research on the Effectiveness of the Therapy
The National Institute of Complementary and Alternative Medicine accepts BioFeedback as a mind-body therapy. The therapy is also considered as a form of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM). Researchers at the EEG Institute talk about how NeuroFeedback or BioFeedback therapy is highly effective in helping patients with attention deficit disorder, stroke, addictions, PTSD or post-traumatic stress disorder, sleep disorders, dyslexia, and many more.
BioFeedback therapy is an excellent, non-invasive form of healing that you can use in conjunction with conventional forms of medicines to help you with medical issues you face. The therapy simply involves training your conscious mind to control your muscles and other body functions so that they function as they should.
- Kiefer, David. MD “Overview of Biofeedback.” WebMD. 1 Aug. 2016. Web. 20 Oct.2016
- “BioFeedback” Mayo Clinic. 14 Jan. 2016. Web. 20 Oct. 2016.
- Frank, Dana L BS, Khorshid, Lameez PsyD, et al. “Biofeedback in medicine: who, when, why and how?” US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health. 7 June 2010. Web. 22 Oct. 2016.
- Othmer, Siegfried. Ph.d. “Overview of Neurofeedback Mechanisms: Setting the Agenda for Research.” EEG Info. Oct. 2003. Web. 22 Oct. 2016.