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When mind meets body.

No longer just a New-Age theory, biofeedback has moved into the mainstream.

Although biofeedback procedures have been used since the 1940s, the practice has remained a mystery for many who have not actually experienced it. Once considered an unconventional, New-Age kind of idea, biofeedback has gained greater acceptance by the medical community and the public as a viable form of treatment for a growing number of health conditions.

For example, the American Association for Headache recommends biofeedback as an effective treatment for both children and adults. The Agency for Health Care Policy and Research Consensus considers biofeedback the primary treatment for urinary incontinence. And more than 700 groups worldwide use biofeedback to effectively treat attention deficit disorder.

Studies have also shown biofeedback to be an effective therapy for hypertension, stress management, muscle spasms, panic and anxiety disorders, PMS, sleep disorders, bedwetting, spinal cord injury, neuromuscular disease paralysis, digestive disorders, asthma and Raynaud's disease (the temporary loss of circulation in the extremities). Biofeedback may also help reduce the effects of temporomandibular joint syndrome (TMJ), epileptic seizures, chronic fatigue syndrome, motion sickness and Tourette's syndrome. It may even help patients overcome addiction to alcohol or drugs.

Sarah, a Sarasota woman, used to suffer from trichotillomania, the uncontrollable and recurrent pulling of one's own hair, along with the migraines and back pain that resulted from her condition. "I tried therapy, antidepressants, and medication for obsessive-compulsive behavior, but nothing really worked," she says. She decided to try biofeedback after her regular phyician suggested it. "I really liked the idea of a holistic approach instead of taking medication," she says.

Sarah found Dr. George Rozelle, a Sarasota psychotherapist and neurotherapist who specializes in biofeedback. After nearly four months of biofeedback therapy in conjunction with psychotherapy, Sarah believes she has totally overcome trichotillomania, and she says that biofeedback therapy has been beneficial in all aspects of her life. "I can now recognize when I'm starting to feel stressed, then use deep breathing and the other techniques I learned from Dr. Rozelle to calm myself down instead of going back to destructive behaviors. I can handle situations that would have stressed me out and led to hair pulling earlier, and I'm less stressed overall," she says.

Exactly what is biofeedback? According to the Association for Applied Psychophysiology and Biofeedback, biofeedback is a laboratory procedure that helps patients to alter and control unconscious bodily functions such as brain activity, blood pressure, muscle tension, heart rate, skin temperature and sweat gland activity. Patients are shown how their bodies react to various stimuli, then taught techniques such as deep breathing, visualization and meditation to change their bodies' normal reactions.

The A.A.P.B. estimates that there are currently around 4,000 biofeedback practitioners throughout the United States. Michael Thompson, director of communications for the A.A.P.B., adds, "Biofeedback is often used in conjunction with other medical practices, such as psychology, physical or occupational therapy, family medicine or in educational settings." The cost of treatment varies depending on the practitioner's typical hourly rate. Rates range from $65 to $200 a session. A psychologist may charge more than a clinician in a school setting, and an occupational therapist's charge will probably be different from a nurse practitioner's. Biofeedback is not usually covered by insurance.

A growing number of Dr. Rozelle's patients are executives who want to attain peak performance in the business world. Dr. Rozelle helps them identify their goals, review times in their life when they performed well and discover their self-limiting thoughts and beliefs and determine their breathing and brain wave patterns at times of high and low performance.

In the initial visit at Rozelle's office, each patient's baseline measures are taken under a variety of circumstances, including when they're relaxed with their eyes closed, when they have their eyes open and during a conversation. Then a clinician will lead the patient in a series of techniques (such as deep breathing) to help alter bodily functions that appear to be causing problems, such as an elevated heart rate or increased muscle tension.

Patients go into the office one to three times a week for approximately 10 to 30 sessions. Eventually, they learm to control their physiology without the assistance of feedback equipment.

Biofeedback is only useful if patients are willing to invest time and effort into learning and practicing the recommended techniques. If patients don't see improvements after 10 sessions, they should probably seek other therapies.

Biofeedback is also being used to improve performance in sports, music and other areas of the arts. According to Stephen E. Wall, the director and founder of the Bio Research Institute in Sonoma County, California, schools can use biofeedback to help children learn more quickly and efficiently. Students can learn to catch themselves when their attention is fading, for example, or to lessen anxiety during tests.

Although patients almost never experience negative side effects from biofeedback therapy, it should not be viewed as a substitute for conventional treatment of serious medical conditions such as hypertension, diabetes, heart disease or depression. Those who use a pacemaker or have any severe heart condition should check with their doctor before trying biofeedback therapy.

BIOFEEDBACK FEEDBACK

To learn more about biofeedback, visit the A.A.P.B. Web site at www.aapb.org, or call (303) 422- 8436. The Bio Research Institute has a Web site (www.7hz.com) and can be contacted at (707) 795-2460. You can find thousands of other Web sites about biofeedoack by typing "biofeedback" into any Internet search engine. To find a qualified biofesoback practitioner, visit the Biofeedback Certification Institute of Amerca Web site at www.netpubsintl.com/bcia/, call the B.C.I.A. at (303) 420-2902, or ask your physician for a recommendation.
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Article Details
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Author:Beiler, Pam
Publication:Sarasota Magazine
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Dec 1, 1999
Words:955
Previous Article:THE MAKING OF A LEGEND.
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