Biofeedback is a therapeutic technique that teaches you how to control physical responses such as breathing, muscle tension, hand temperature, heart rate, blood pressure and brain activity that are not normally controlled voluntarily. This control is achieved by learning how to focus on and modify signals from your body. Biofeedback may be used to help people change the way their bodies respond to a variety of conditions, including chronic pain, stress and anxiety, to name a few. The skill typically is taught by a health care professional with expertise in the techniques and uses a handful of clinical, noninvasive instruments. Once you understand how the technique is applied, and after some practice, it is usually possible to use the skill independently.
To understand biofeedback, think of a thermometer--an external device that measures a physiological change. Biofeedback uses electronic or electromechanical instruments to monitor, measure, process and feed back information about blood pressure, muscle tension, heart rate, brain waves and other physiological functions.
Audio and/or visual feedback signals reflect this activity. This gives you greater awareness and voluntary control: First you learn to control the external signal and, eventually, you learn to recognize and use internal cues.
Biofeedback is a relatively recent approach, first developed in the 1940s. The term came into use around 1969 to describe procedures that trained research subjects to alter brain activity, blood pressure, muscle tension, heart rate and other "involuntary" bodily functions. The goal is to train you, primarily by changing thought processes, to control physiologic responses.
At first, biofeedback was viewed with skepticism, but it has been increasingly accepted by mainstream health care professionals and insurers. In the last 30 years, scientists have been exploring the mind/body connection. More acceptance and widespread use of biofeedback therapy has resulted.
Studies indicate that it is an effective therapy. Its use is supported by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) for treatment of a range of illnesses and ailments.
Biofeedback is most helpful for conditions involving muscle tension. It's a particularly useful therapy for reducing stress and anxiety, and the NIH has approved its use in the treatment of chronic pain and insomnia. Biofeedback can be used as both a primary and secondary treatment. Secondary treatments are used in conjunction with traditional medicine. In these cases, biofeedback would be used to deal with the trauma or fear of having a disease like cancer; the pain associated with the condition; and the nausea from chemotherapy. Biofeedback is a secondary treatment for diseases like multiple sclerosis, Crohn's disease and other conditions that are not considered curable by biofeedback, although some symptoms of these conditions can be alleviated with this therapy.
There are at least 150 applications for biofeedback, and the list continues to grow. Below are some of those uses:
addiction to alcohol, tobacco and other drugs
attention deficit disorder attention deficit (hyperactivity) disorder (ADD or ADHD)
Behavioral syndrome in children, whose major symptoms are inattention and distractibility, restlessness, inability to sit still, and difficulty concentrating on one thing for any
bruxism Bruxism Definition
Bruxism is the habit of clenching and grinding the teeth. It most often occurs at night during sleep, but it may also occur during the day. It is an unconscious behavior, perhaps performed to release anxiety, aggression, or anger. (teeth grinding)
cardiac arrhythmia (abnormalities in heartbeat)
chronic fatigue syndrome chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS), collection of persistent, debilitating symptoms, the most notable of which is severe, lasting fatigue. In other countries it is known variously as myalgic encephalomyelitis, chronic fatigue and immune dysfunction syndrome, and
circulatory problems (such as Raynaud's phenomenon)
concentration improvement for education and meditation
control of brain waves for spiritual development and inner tranquility
headaches (including migraines)
high blood pressure
irritable bowel syndrome irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), condition characterized by frequently alternating constipation and diarrhea in the absence of any disease process. It is usually accompanied by abdominal pain, especially in the lower left quadrant, bloating, and flatulence. and other digestive disorders
jaw pain and dysfunction (including temporomandibular joint syndrome temporomandibular joint syndrome
n. Abbr. TMJ
A disorder that is caused by faulty articulation of the temporomandibular joint and is characterized by facial pain, headache, ringing ears, dizziness, and stiffness of the neck. )
nausea and motion sickness
paralysis, spinal cord injury Spinal Cord Injury Definition
Spinal cord injury is damage to the spinal cord that causes loss of sensation and motor control.
Approximately 10,000 new spinal cord injuries (SCIs) occur each year in the United States. and other movement disorders
torticollis Torticollis Definition
Torticollis (cervical dystonia or spasmodic torticollis) is a type of movement disorder in which the muscles controlling the neck cause sustained twisting or frequent jerking. (neck muscles contract involuntarily, causing the head to turn)
vulvovaginal vulvovaginal /vul·vo·vag·i·nal/ (-vaj´i-n'l) pertaining to the vulva and vagina.
Of or relating to the vulva and the vagina. pain
Although biofeedback is perhaps most closely associated with stress relief, new applications are being developed regularly. In addition to the above conditions, biofeedback has been shown to help those with Raynaud's disease (periodic loss of circulation in the fingers and/or feet). It is used to reduce tension and fatigue and alleviate mild depression.
Motion sickness is one of the newest applications. NASA used biofeedback to help astronauts deal with space sickness, and now the space agency's techniques are being used to help others who suffer from nausea, vomiting and motion sickness.
A particular type of biofeedback, called electroencephalographic e·lec·tro·en·ceph·a·lo·graph
n. Abbr. EEG
An instrument that measures electrical potentials on the scalp and generates a record of the electrical activity of the brain. Also called encephalograph. (EEG) biofeedback, or neurotherapy, is used for a variety of conditions, including reducing hyperactivity and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), formerly called hyperkinesis or minimal brain dysfunction, a chronic, neurologically based syndrome characterized by any or all of three types of behavior: hyperactivity, distractibility, and impulsivity. . Through neurotherapy, you learn to pay attention to brainwave activity and ultimately control it.
Unlike many other approaches to health care, biofeedback puts you in charge. It requires you to learn from the signals your body sends and make changes accordingly. It even involves practice at home. And after you finish your biofeedback sessions, you need to use what you learned regularly. You will use it, of course, to affect the condition. Daily practice, even when your symptoms are responding to treatment, reinforces your skills. Depending on the condition you're trying to affect, your practice period may range from a couple of minutes intermittently during the day to half-hour sessions. You might focus on a particular muscle group, a hand-warming technique or on some other technique specific to your needs.
Biofeedback and Hypnosis
Many health professionals use both hypnosis and biofeedback, often together. In fact, it is impossible to teach biofeedback without also teaching a type of self hypnosis exercise, such as imagery-relaxation, progressive relaxation or imagery change.
One benefit from using the combination of hypnotherapy Hypnotherapy Definition
Hypnotherapy is the treatment of a variety of health conditions by hypnotism or by inducing prolonged sleep.
Pioneers in this field, such as James Braid and James Esdaile discovered that hypnosis could be used to and biofeedback is that the participant recognizes quickly that changing thinking changes physiologic responses. This encourages mental practice toward the goal of making a desired physiologic change permanent.
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Keywords: biofeedback, blood pressure, heart rate, muscle tension, physiological, stress, anxiety, secondary treatment, hypnosis