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Biofeedback Therapy

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Find out what Biofeedback is, its benefits, and what to expect when you decide to get professional help.

Biofeedback Therapy

Biofeedback is a mind-body technique that involves using visual or auditory feedback to gain control over involuntary bodily functions.  This may include gaining voluntary control over heart rate, muscle tension, blood flow, pain perception, and blood pressure.  This process involves being connected to a device with sensors that provide feedback about specific aspects of your body.  This allows greater awareness of many physiological functions of one’s body using electronic or other instruments and manipulating the body’s systems at will. 

Humans conduct biofeedback naturally, at varying levels of consciousness and intentionality.  By learning how to control the physical and psychological effects of stress using biofeedback, people can learn how to relax their minds and bodies and better cope with anxiety symptoms. This goal is to make subtle changes to the body that result in the desired effect.  For example, it might include relaxing specific muscles slowing heart rate or reducing feelings of pain.

Some of the functions that people can learn to control:
  • Blood Flow
  • Blood Pressure
  • Heart Rate
  • Muscle Tension
  • Pain Perception
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Types of Biofeedback Therapy

There are many different types of biofeedback.  Your specific approach might depend on your hope to accomplish and what your therapist or physician recommends.

  • Thermal (Temperature Feedback):  Patients wear sensors that detect blood flow to the skin.  Because people often experience a drop in body temperature during times of stress.  Such devices can help people better see when they are starting to feel distressed.  A low reading on one of these monitors indicates a need to utilize stress management techniques.
  •  Heart Rate:  This type uses finger or earlobe sensors with a device used to detect blood volume changes (photoplethysmograph).  Or sensors placed on your chest, lower torso, or wrists use an electrocardiograph (ECG) to measure your heart rate and how your heart rate varies.
  • Brain Waves:  This type uses scalp sensors to monitor your brain waves using an electroencephalograph (EEG).
  • Sweat Gland Activity:  Sensors attached around your fingers or on your palm or wrist with an electrodermograph (EDG) measure the movement of your sweat glands and the amount of perspiration on your skin, alerting you to anxiety.  
  • Breathing:  During respiratory biofeedback, bands are placed around your abdomen and chest to monitor your breathing patterns and respiration rate.
  • Muscle Contraction:  This type involves placing sensors over your skeletal muscles with an electromyography (EMG) to monitor the electrical activity that causes muscle contraction.

Purpose of Biofeedback Therapy

It aims to combat stress through relaxation techniques. You consciously manipulate your breathing, heart rate, and other usually “involuntary” functions to override your body’s response to stressful situations. It appears to be most effective for conditions heavily influenced by stress.  Some examples include: learning disorders, eating disorders, bedwetting, and muscle spasms.

Biofeedback may also be effective in treating numerous physical and mental health issues, including:
  • Asthma
  • Incontinence
  • Constipation
  • Irritable Bowel Syndrome
  • Side effects from chemotherapy
  • High Blood Pressure
  • Raynaud’s Disease
  • Chronic pain
  • Stress or anxiety

Some people prefer biofeedback as a form of treatment for these conditions because it’s non-invasive and doesn’t rely on medications.  Other people pair biofeedback with more traditional treatment options to improve overall wellness.

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What Biofeedback Therapy Can Help With

It is beneficial for managing stress as well as a variety of conditions that may be exacerbated by stress, including Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)

  • Anxiety
  • Traumatic Brain injuries
  • Depression
  • Digestive disorders such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
  • High and low blood pressure
  • Mental health conditions
  • Migraines
  • Pain
  • Physical reactions to stress
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • Relaxation and stress management
  • Tension headaches
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Benefits of Biofeedback Therapy

Like other treatment approaches, biofeedback has its upsides and downsides.  It may not be suitable for everyone, so it is essential to consider the benefits and risks before determining if it is the best choice for your situation.  So what are some of the reasons why you might consider using biofeedback?

  • It’s Non-Invasive: Biofeedback therapy may appeal when other ineffective treatments or people cannot take certain medications.  Although biofeedback therapy is non-invasive, patients may prefer it when other treatments may be more invasive or disrupting.
  • It Can Complement Other Treatments: Biofeedback training can also be used as one part of a treatment approach.  In addition, people often use biofeedback to augment other treatments, including medication and relaxation strategies.
  • It Can Help Put You in Control of Your Emotions: Biofeedback also teaches people how to control their responses in stressful situations, which can help people feel more in control and better manage the stress they may face in their daily lives and the pressure resulting from another health condition.
It can also have additional mental health benefits, including learning new techniques for coping with anxiety and managing emotional responses.
  • Things to Consider:  Biofeedback is generally considered a safe procedure, but you should always talk to your physician or therapist about your options before you begin. In addition, biofeedback is not necessarily suitable for everyone, and other approaches might work better for your unique situation.
  • If you decide biofeedback is suitable for you, be sure to check on the credentials of the professional treating you and be aware of the possible costs of your biofeedback training, including the cost per session and expenses associated with devices that may need to purchase.
  • Cost:  Fees can vary depending upon the biofeedback therapist’s training, qualification, and experience.  There are also several in-home biofeedback devices and wearables available on the market. 
  • Biofeedback Therapy Devices: Medical and mental health professionals use the first one. The second one is available on the consumer market for personal use.  Remember that most of the devices you see available for purchase have not been evaluated for safety or effectiveness by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).  Talk to your therapist about which devices they recommend.
Two Different Categories Of Devices
  1. Clinical Biofeedback Therapy Devices: The FDA regulates these devices utilized for clinical purposes.  These devices are often available through a biofeedback therapist’s office or the office of another health practitioner.
  2. Personal Use Biofeedback Devices: This device can be purchased from various online retailers for personal, in-home use.  Such devices often involve sensors that record information and can then be plugged into a computer.  Other wearable devices utilize sensors that provide input via an app on your mobile device.  These devices include wearable instruments ranging from muscle sensors to skin response units to brain wave monitors.
  • Preparing For Biofeedback Therapy: Check your biofeedback therapist’s credentials before starting therapy.  You may want to ask about their training and whether or not they accept your health insurance.  State laws regulating biofeedback practitioners vary.  Check your own state’s regulations before visiting a therapist.
  • Risks:  Biofeedback is generally safe, but it might not be appropriate for everyone.  For example, biofeedback devices might not work correctly on people with certain medical conditions, such as heart rhythm problems or skin conditions.  So be sure to discuss it with your doctor first.

How Biofeedback Therapy Works

Electrical sensors that connect to a monitor will be hooked up to your body.  The sensors measure one or more signs of stress.  For example, the sensor can include heart rate, muscle tension, or body temperature.  The measurements provide feedback about how your body responds to different stimuli.

A biofeedback therapist can teach you how to lower your heart rate through breathing exercises, relaxation techniques, and mental exercises.  Then, you can measure the results of these techniques and activities on the monitor.  This encourages more positive reactions and relaxation.

A typical biofeedback session lasts between 30 and 60 minutes.  However, the number of sessions needed to resolve an issue will vary depending on factors, including how quickly you learn to control your physical responses.

There are also commercial biofeedback devices available on the open market that are meant for home use.  There are devices with handheld monitors and others that connect to your computer. However, it would help if you were careful of scams.  Check with your primary care provider before purchasing one of these devices. Not all manufacturers are reputable.

What You Can Expect in Biofeedback Therapy Treatment

Your therapist will help to determine which biofeedback technique is proper for you based on your health issues.  The success of biofeedback therapy depends on several factors, such as how often you use the methods you learn during treatment in your daily life.

We Level Up Treatment Center provides world-class care with round-the-clock medical professionals available to help you cope.  We work as an integrated team giving biofeedback therapy and other aspects of treatment. Make this your opportunity to reclaim your life.  Call today to speak with one of our treatment specialists.  Our specialists know what you are going through and will answer any of your questions.

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