Biofeedback is a method that helps a person learn to control some of the body’s functions, such as the heart rate. During the process of biofeedback, a person is connected to electrical sensors that help receive information about the body.
This feedback helps in making subtle changes in the body, such as relaxing certain muscles, to achieve results such as reducing pain. In essence, biofeedback gives individuals the ability to practice new ways to control their bodies to improve their health conditions or physical performance.
What is biofeedback therapy?
Biofeedback, as mentioned, is a type of therapy that uses sensors that are attached to the body to measure key body functions.
Biofeedback is designed on the concept of mind over matter where the idea is such that, with proper techniques, one can change one’s health by being conscious of how the body responds to stressors and other stimuli.
Chronic stress can have drastic effects on the body. This may include high blood pressure, increased body temperature, and disruption of brain function.
What are the different types of biofeedback?
There are various biofeedback methods available, and a professionally trained therapist may use any of the following methods depending on the health issues and goals. Biofeedback types include:
- Brain waves: This type involves the usage of scalp sensors to monitor one’s brain waves using an electroencephalograph (EEG).
- Breathing: During the process of respiratory biofeedback, bands are placed around the abdomen and chest to monitor breathing patterns and respiration rate
- Heart rate: This type makes use of finger or earlobe sensors with a device that helps to detect blood volume changes (photoplethysmography). Sometimes, sensors are placed on the chest, lower torso, or wrists that use an electrocardiograph (ECG) to measure the heart rate and the way the heart rate varies.
- Muscle contraction: here, a professional therapist places sensors over the skeletal muscles with an EMG (electromyograph) to monitor the electrical activity which causes muscle contraction.
- Sweat gland activity: Sensors are attached to fingers or the palm or wrist with an electrodermograph (EDG) to measure the activity of the sweat glands and the amount of perspiration on the skin.
- Temperature: Sensors are attached to the fingers or feet to measure blood flow to the skin. When a person is under stress the temperature drops, a low reading can inform the person to begin relaxation techniques.
What are the various biofeedback machines?
Anyone can receive biofeedback learning in physical therapy clinics, medical centres, and hospitals. A great number of biofeedback devices and programs are also being marketed for home use, including:
- Interactive computer programs or mobile devices: Certain kinds of biofeedback devices measure physiological changes in the body, such as heart rate activity and skin changes, with the use of one or more sensors attached to the fingers or ear. The sensors plug into the computer.
- Using computer graphics and prompts, the devices help a person to control their breathing, relax muscles, and think positive thoughts to manage stress and cope with it. Studies show that these types of devices may be efficient in improving responses during stress and induce feelings of calm and well-being.
- Another kind of biofeedback therapy involves wearing a headband that monitors brain activity while meditating. It uses sounds to let a person know when the mind is calm and when it’s active to help learn to take control of the stress response. The information from each session will be stored on the computer or mobile device so that it is easy to retrieve and track the progress over time.
- Wearable devices that involve wearing a sensor on the waist to monitor and track breathing patterns using a downloadable app. The app can help alert if a person is experiencing prolonged tension, and offers guided breathing activities to help restore calm.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved a biofeedback device called RESPeRATE, a portable electronic device that promotes slow, deep breathing, to help reduce stress and lower blood pressure.
However, the FDA doesn’t approve many biofeedback devices marketed for home use. Before you try biofeedback therapy at home, discuss the types of devices with a medical expert who can help a person find the best fit. Please be aware that a few products may be falsely marketed as biofeedback devices, and that not all biofeedback practitioners are legitimate.
What are the different uses of biofeedback?
Biofeedback is focused on combating stress through relaxation techniques. A person consciously controls and manipulates their breathing, heart rate, and other involuntary functions to override the body’s reaction to stressful situations.
Biofeedback seems to be most effective for conditions that are heavily influenced by stress. Some examples include learning disorders, eating disorders, bedwetting, and muscle spasms. It may be used to treat numerous physical and mental health issues, including:
- Irritable bowel syndrome
- Side effects from chemotherapy
- High blood pressure
- Raynaud’s disease
- Chronic pain
- Stress or anxiety
A lot of people prefer biofeedback as an effective form of treatment for these conditions because it’s non-invasive and doesn’t rely on medications. Others pair biofeedback with more traditional treatment options to improve overall health and wellness.
What are the benefits of biofeedback?
Biofeedback can be beneficial in many different conditions. Here is a rundown of some biofeedback benefits:
- Chronic pain: Biofeedback helps identify tight muscles and teaches relaxing techniques that might help relieve the discomfort of conditions like abdominal pain, low back pain, fibromyalgia and temporomandibular joint disorders (TMJ). Biofeedback can help with pain relief for people of all ages, be it children or older adults.
- Headaches: It is one of the best-studied biofeedback uses. Muscle tension and stress can trigger migraines, and various kinds of headaches, and may worsen the symptoms of headaches. There is a good observation that biofeedback therapy can relax muscles and ease stress to reduce both the frequency and severity of headaches. It seems to be beneficial for headaches when it’s combined with the right medications.
- Anxiety: anxiety relief is one of the most common uses of biofeedback. Biofeedback makes a person more aware of their body’s responses when they are stressed and anxious. This way a person can learn to control those responses.
- Urinary incontinence: This therapy can help people with urinary incontinence -trouble controlling the urge to use the bathroom. Biofeedback may help women strengthen the pelvic floor muscles for bladder control. After several sessions of biofeedback, women with incontinence may be able to reduce their urgent need to urinate and the number of accidents. Biofeedback can also help children reduce bed bedwetting incidents, as well as people with faecal incontinence (the inability to control bowel movements).
- High Blood Pressure: There is mixed evidence on the use of biofeedback for high blood pressure. Although the technique does seem to help lower blood pressure slightly, biofeedback isn’t as efficient as medication for blood pressure control.
Other biofeedback uses include:
- Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
- Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
- High blood pressure
- Raynaud’s disease
- Rheumatoid arthritis
An expert will help a person decide which biofeedback technique is right for them, based on their health issues and body conditions. The success of biofeedback therapy depends on several factors, such as how often this technique is used in a person’s daily life.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
What is the purpose of biofeedback therapy?
The therapy is aimed at managing stress through relaxation techniques. In this, a person is trained to consciously manipulate their breathing, heart rate, and other involuntary functions to override a body’s response to stressful situations.
How does one prepare for biofeedback therapy?
No specific preparation is required for a biofeedback session. But it is always advisable to check the credentials of the therapist before starting therapy to make sure that they are professionally trained.