Biofeedback can play a crucial role in the diagnosis and treatment of a number of disorders, especially chronic pain and the addictive disorders. Chronic pain can be reduced greatly with the proper use of biofeedback technology.
In the case of the addictive disorders, biofeedback/neurofeedback, when used in conjunction with conventional treatments, has proven to be more efficacious than standard treatment alone. Increases in success rates, decreases in dropout rates and reduced relapse rates are seen when biofeedback is used, combined with conventional treatments, in patients suffering from drug and alcohol addiction. In addition to curing patients of their addictions and preventing relapse, neurofeedback training has been shown to bring about an improvement in the overall functioning of an individual.
So, what is Biofeedback Therapy?
Biofeedback is training your mind to heal your body.
In biofeedback, a machine monitors your bodily processes such as heart rate, blood pressure, muscle tension and skin temperature, then reports them back to you in real time. Initially, you would use the machine to monitor your bodily processes and correlate them with your thoughts and feelings. With training, you slowly begin to learn to identify these thoughts and feelings and control your mental state to bring about the desired physical and physiological changes in your body.
The three most commonly used forms of biofeedback therapy are
- Electromyography (EMG), which measures muscle tension
- Thermal biofeedback, which measures skin temperature
- Neurofeedback or electroencephalography (EEG), which measures brain wave activity
These different bodily processes are measured through electrodes or sensors which are attached to your skin. These send information to a monitoring device which translates the information and presents it to you, either as an auditory tone or onscreen display.
Biofeedback, as actually practiced, includes not only sophisticated equipment that presents moment-to-moment information about your physiology, but also relaxation, meditation, mind-body techniques that have been around for many years, but not utilized very much.
Biofeedback can be used in different ways, depending on the practitioner’s background and training. A physical therapist might use EMG biofeedback to help a patient learn to reduce hyper braining (shoulder shrugging) and improve body alignment. A psychologist will use biofeedback to teach a patient to have better control of their autonomic nervous system, relax, reduce anxiety, address anger management problems, implement pain reducing imagery techniques, stabilize mood variations with neurofeedback training or just change a patient’s attitude from helplessness to self efficacy.