What is Biofeedback?
When you raise your hand to wave hello to a friend, or lift your knee to take another step on the Stairmaster, you control these actions. Other body functions -- like heart rate, skin temperature, and blood pressure -- are controlled involuntarily by your nervous system. You don't think about making your heart beat faster. It just happens in response to your environment, like when you're nervous, excited, or exercising.
A technique can help you gain more control over these normally involuntary functions. It's called biofeedback. The idea behind biofeedback is that, by harnessing the power of your mind and becoming aware of what's going on inside your body, you can gain more control over your health. Biofeedback promotes relaxation, which can help relieve a number of conditions that are related to stress. Biofeedback may be used to improve health, performance, and the physiological changes that often occur in conjunction with changes to thoughts, emotions, and behavior.
How Does Biofeedback Work?
During a biofeedback session a sensor is attached to your ear or finger. These sensors send signals to a monitor, which displays a sound, flash of light, or image that represents your heart and breathing rate, blood pressure, skin temperature, sweating, or muscle activity.
When you're under stress, these functions change. Your heart rate speeds up, your muscles tighten, your blood pressure rises, you start to sweat, and your breathing quickens. You can see these stress responses as they happen on the monitor, and then get immediate feedback as you try to stop them.
As you slow your heart rate, lower your blood pressure, and ease muscle tension, you'll get instant feedback on the screen. A biofeedback technician helps you practice relaxation exercises, which you fine-tune to control different body functions. Eventually, you'll learn how to control these functions on your own, without the biofeedback equipment.
Biofeedback can help many different conditions. Here is a rundown of some biofeedback benefits:
Chronic Pain. By helping you identify tight muscles and then learn to relax those muscles, biofeedback may help relieve the discomfort of conditions like low back pain, abdominal pain, temporomandibular joint disorders (TMJ), and fibromyalgia. For pain relief, biofeedback can benefit people of all ages, from children to older adults.
Headaches. Headaches are one of the best-studied biofeedback uses. Muscle tension and stress can trigger migraines and other types of headaches, and can make headache symptoms worse. There is good evidence that biofeedback therapy can relax muscles and ease stress to reduce both the frequency and severity of headaches.
Anxiety. Anxiety relief is one of the most common uses of biofeedback. Biofeedback lets you become more aware of your body's responses when you're stressed and anxious. Then you can learn how to control those responses.
Other conditions that may benefit from re-balancing of the nervous system and learning self-regulation skills through biofeedback include:
· High Blood Pressure
· Muscle Spasms