The Medical Benefits of Biofeedback Therapy

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Biofeedback involves measuring a subject’s bodily processes such as blood pressure, heart rate, skin temperature and muscle tension. This information is then conveyed such information to the subject in real-time in order to raise his or her awareness and conscious control of the related physiological activities. The subjects are then trained to improve their health by using signals from their own bodies.

Many physical therapists now use biofeedback to help stroke victims regain movement in paralyzed muscles. Psychologists use it to help tense and anxious clients learn to relax. Specialists in many different fields use biofeedback to help their patients cope with pain. Physicians, medical assistants, nurses and other healthcare professionals are now providing patients with information about the benefits that biofeedback therapy can offer.

The word “biofeedback” was coined in the late 1960s to describe laboratory procedures then being used to train experimental research subjects to alter brain activity, blood pressure, heart rate, and other bodily functions that normally are not controlled voluntarily. At the time, many scientists looked forward to the day when biofeedback would give us a major degree of control over our bodies. They thought, for instance, that we might be able to “will” ourselves to be more creative by changing the patterns of our brainwaves. Some believed that biofeedback would one day make it possible to do away with drug treatments that often cause uncomfortable side effects in patients with high blood pressure and other serious conditions. Most scientists now agree that such high hopes were not realistic. Research has demonstrated that therapy can help in the treatment of many diseases and painful conditions. It has shown that we have more control over so-called involuntary bodily function than we once though possible. But it has also shown that nature limits the extent of such control. Scientists are now trying to determine just how much voluntary control we can exert.

Scientists cannot yet explain how biofeedback works. Most patients who benefit from teatment are trained to relax and modify their behavior. Most scientists believe that relaxation is a key component in biofeedback treatment of many disorders, particularly those brought on or made worse by stress. Their reasoning is based on what is known about the effects of stress on the body. In brief, the argument goes like this: Stressful events produce strong emotions, which arouse certain physical responses. Many of these responses are controlled by the sympathetic nervous system, the network of nerve tissues that helps prepare the body to meet emergencies by “flight or fight.

Biofeedback uses your mind to control your body. This is a type of complementary and alternative medicine called mind-body therapy. Using feedback from a variety of monitoring procedures and equipment, a biofeedback specialist will try to teach you to control certain involuntary body responses, such as brain activity, blood pressure, muscle tension and heart rate. Once you learn to recognize and control these responses, you can use biofeedback to help treat a wide range of mental and physical health problems. Even if you don’t have a specific disease or condition this may help your overall health and sense of well-being.

This therapy has been shown to be helpful in treating about over a hundred medical conditions, including: asthma, Raynaud’s disease, IBS (irritable bowel syndrome), Hot flashes, nausea and vomiting, incontinence, headaches, irregular heartbeats, cardiac arrhythmias, high blood pressure and epilepsy. Many people who have tried biofeedback can’t explain how they’re able to control their bodies to relieve their symptoms. In order to truly assess whether biofeedback is effective in treating your particular symptoms, keep a daily diary to monitor your use of the treatment as well as how you feel before, during and after the therapy.

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