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Nevada's nurses care for patients with mental health and substance abuse/addiction challenges every day. As the incidence and prevalence of these concerns seem to skyrocket, health care systems are unable to keep pace with treatment demands. Medications and inpatient programs are available, but for those patients looking for a new path to treatment success, biofeedback may be an option.

Biofeedback, a scientific term coined in the 1960's, describes a method for assuming voluntary control over involuntary responses to stimuli. The body is best able to assert voluntary control when relaxed, so relaxation techniques such as diaphragmatic breathing, progressive muscle relaxation, guided imagery, visualization, and phrase repetition are essential first steps in biofeedback.

Next, physical responses are measured, such as skin conductance and temperature, heart rate (HRV = heart rate variability), or skeletal muscle activity (surface EMG). These measurements provide the feedback patients need for understanding stimuli and controlling responses.

Biofeedback is best known for its value in moderating physiologic conditions. By monitoring stressful physical, mental, and emotional stimuli and individual responses, the autonomic nervous system's responses may be controlled so that sympathetic responses (fight or flight) give way to parasympathetic responses (relaxation and return to normal). Clinical improvements through biofeedback in asthma, COPD, hypertension and Raynaud's disease, GI disorders, injuries and chronic pain, and female urinary incontinence are impressive.

The Biofeedback Institute of San Francisco believes biofeedback may also be effective with stress and post- traumatic stress disorder, phobias, social anxiety, depression, and substance abuse/ addiction. Biofeedback's relaxation techniques and physical responses measurements may comprise basic treatment--and often this is all patients need. Advanced treatment utilizes brain wave monitoring and feedback (neurofeedback) to direct brain wave frequency. By controlling frequency, patients may be able to influence attention, emotion, and mood, and decrease craving.

Biofeedback's proven success can be replicated by therapists, and eventually by individuals at home through reliance on established protocols. The Biofeedback Federation of Europe website describes protocols for a wide variety of topics from "Effortless Diaphragmatic Breathing" to "Peak Performance Training...". This goldmine of scientific investigation and collaboration seems an invaluable tool for practitioners and individuals alike (search "publications" for "protocols").

Interested? Please visit

Association for Applied Psychophysiology and Biofeedback at

Biofeedback Federation of Europe at

Biofeedback Institute of San Francisco at www. Check out their free audio tracks

Healthline at Note their discussions re: intended benefits and risks, and preparing for biofeedback

Mayo Clinic at Note their discussions re: finding a biofeedback therapist, devices, and insurance coverage

WebMD at

References include Heather Miadowicz's very informative article Biofeedback 101, published in's November 2014 issue.
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Publication:Nevada RNformation
Date:Aug 1, 2015
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