Biofeedback is a technique that trains people to improve their health by controlling certain bodily processes that normally happen involuntarily, such as heart rate, blood pressure, muscle tension, and skin temperature. Electrodes or sensors attached to your skin measure these processes and display them on a monitor. With help from a biofeedback therapist, you can learn to change your heart rate or blood pressure, for example. At first you use the monitor to see your progress, but eventually you will be able to achieve success without the monitor, sensors, or electrodes.
The are four most commonly used forms of biofeedback therapy are:
Electromyography (EMG), which measures muscle tension
Thermal biofeedback, which measures skin temperature
Galvanic Skin response (GSR), which measures levels of perspiration
Heartrate Variability, which measures heart rate and blood pressure fluctuations
Researchers aren' t sure exactly how or why biofeedback works. However, there does seem to be at least one common thread: most people who benefit from biofeedback have conditions that are brought on or made worse by stress. For this reason, many scientists believe that relaxation is the key to successful biofeedback therapy. When your body is under chronic stress, internal processes like blood pressure become overactive. Guided by a neurotherapist, you can learn to lower your blood pressure through relaxation techniques and mental exercises. When you are successful, you see the results on the monitor, which encourages your efforts.
In a normal biofeedback session, electrodes or sensors are attached to your skin. They send information to a small monitoring box that translates the measurements into a tone that varies in pitch, a visual meter that varies in brightness, or a computer screen that shows lines moving across a grid. The biofeedback therapist then leads you in mental exercises. Through trial and error, you can soon learn to identify the mental activities that will bring about the physical changes you want.
Biofeedback seems to be effective for a range of health problems. For example, research suggests that thermal biofeedback may ease symptoms of Raynaud's disease (a condition that causes reduced blood flow to fingers, toes, nose, or ears) while EMG biofeedback has been shown to reduce pain, morning stiffness, and the number of tender points in people with fibromyalgia. A review of scientific clinical studies found that biofeedback may help people with insomnia fall asleep. Other studies suggest it may even reduce the risk of cardiac events by lowering blood pressure levels and reducing the body's "sympathetic" response during times of stress.
Biofeedback can also be used effectively in children. Biofeedback, combined with a fiber rich diet, may help relieve abdominal pain in children. Thermal biofeedback helps relieve migraine and chronic tension headaches among children and teens as well.
Biofeedback may also be useful for the following health problems:
Anxiety; Asthma; Autism; Back pain; Bed wetting; Chronic pain; Depression; Eating Disorders; Headaches and migraines; Mood Disorders; Muscle spasms.
Biofeedback is considered safe. No negative side effects have been reported.
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