is a therapy, in which people are trained to improve their health by using
signals from their own bodies. In the late 1960s research showed that
certain involuntary activities like brain activity, blood pressure, heart
rate can be altered by tuning into our body. This was termed as Biofeedback.
Simply put biofeedback is the technique of looking into the signals from
our body, for example measuring ones weight or temperature are simple
methods of biofeedback, as both devices feedback information about the body.
Biofeedback is used in a variety of situations. It is generally used by
physical therapists to help stroke victims regain movement in paralyzed
muscles. Psychologists use it to help tense and anxious clients learn to
relax. Research has demonstrated that we have more control over so-called
involuntary bodily function than we once thought impossible and using the
biofeedback techniques we can exercise this control.
What does biofeedback involve?
It mostly involves some form of relaxation exercise. Some people learn to
identify the circumstances that trigger their symptoms. They may also be
taught how to avoid or cope with these stressful events. Most are encouraged
to change their habits, and some are trained in special techniques for
gaining such self-control.
Biofeedback cannot cure disease or by itself make a person healthy. It is a
tool, available to health care professionals. It reminds physicians that
behavior, thoughts, and feelings profoundly influence physical health.
When is Biofeedback used particularly?
Clinical biofeedback techniques are widely used to treat a host of
conditions. These include:
What are the Patients' Responsibilities?
- Disorders of the digestive system
- Migraine headaches, tension headaches, and many other types of pain
- High blood pressure and low blood pressure
- Cardiac arrhythmias (abnormalities, sometimes dangerous, in the
rhythm of the heartbeat)
- Raynaud's disease (a circulatory disorder that causes uncomfortably
- Paralysis and other movement disorders
Biofeedback demands the patients to examine their day-to-day lives and to
find out if they may be contributing to their own distress. They must commit
themselves to practicing biofeedback or relaxation exercises every day,
change bad habits and even ease up on some good ones. They must accept
responsibility for maintaining their own health.
Relaxation is a key component in biofeedback treatment of many disorders.
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 and this may be by flight or fight. Normally, people
calm down when a stressful event is over especially if they have done
something to cope with it.
Individuals differ in the way they respond to stress. In some, one
function, such as blood pressure, becomes more active while others remain
normal. These individual physical responses to stress can become habitual.
When the body is repeatedly aroused, one or more functions may become
permanently overactive eventually causing damage to body tissues.
Biofeedback is often aimed at changing habitual reactions to stress that
can cause pain or disease. Feedback of physical responses such as skin
temperature and muscle tension provides information to help patients
recognize a relaxed state.
The value of a feedback signal as information and reward may be even
greater in the treatment of patients with paralyzed or spastic muscles. The
signals can guide the exercises that help patients regain use of their
limbs. The feedback convinces patients that the limbs are still alive. This
reassurance often encourages them to continue their efforts.