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What Is Biofeedback?
Biofeedback is a psychotherapy technique
that uses electronic equipment to measure and "feed back" information about
activity in the human body. The goal of biofeedback therapy is to help
you develop awareness and control of your body and mind. You can then use
that control to improve and maintain physical and mental health. Biofeedback
is painless, rarely produces side-effects, and can be done at the same
time as other forms of treatment.
What Is Biofeedback Used For?
Biofeedback is used to treat many
common medical conditions. These include muscle tension headaches, migraine/vascular
headaches, irritable bowel syndrome, high blood pressure, urinary and fecal
incontinence, and chronic pain. It is also used for treatment of anxiety
disorders (phobias, panic, OCD), and as part of stress management
What Kinds of Biofeedback Will
I use use four types of
biofeedback in my practice. Electromyographic (EMG) feedback measures
changes in the electrical activity of muscles and helps you to learn how
to produce deep muscle relaxation. Skin temperature feedback helps to produce
overall relaxation of the mind and body by measuring changes in finger
temperature. When you become more relaxed, the blood vessels in the hands
and fingers open up more. This allows more blood to flow and more heat
to radiate out. Heart rate variability feedback measures subtle changes
in heart activity that can help you learn to reduce activity in the parts
of the brain that cause stress and anxiety. Neurofeedback is a specialized
form of biofeedback that involves feedback of brain wave activity. Please
refer to my neurofeedback page for more information.
The type of biofeedback that you
will use will depend on the condition being treated. If you have muscle
tension headaches you would use EMG feedback to learn how to reduce tension
in the muscles that cause headaches. Treatment of migraine headaches or
high blood pressure, both of which involve the blood vessels, would include
skin temperature and heart rate variability feedback. The brain wave abnormalities
that are common in people with ADD/ADHD are treated with neurofeedback.
Treatment of anxiety disorders can use one or more of the four feedback
modalities described above.
A Typical Biofeedback Session
Biofeedback therapy sessions generally
last about 45 minutes. You will be sitting in a comfortable chair to help
you relax during the session. Depending on the kind of feedback being
used, one or more sensors will be placed on the surface of our skin. For
example, if you are being treated for muscle tension headaches EMG sensors
might be placed on your forehead or neck. You will sit in front of a computer
monitor which shows a video display that is controlled by the biofeedback
equipment. A training goal is set for each session. You might be trying
to make electrical activity in facial muscles go below three microvolts
or work towards getting your hand temperature to go above 90 degrees.
As part of your biofeedback therapy
you may be asked to learn and practice stress management techniques such
as progressive muscle relaxation (PMR) and diaphragmatic breathing. Consistent
home practice of the PMR and breathing exercises is essential for success
2003 Aharon Shulimson Ph.D.