Over the past decade, scientists have learned a lot about how the brain functions. We know that our central nervous and autoimmune systems affect our physical, mental and emotional health. We also discovered more about the brain functioning, its connection to the body’s complex systems, and its ability to consciously control bodily functions.
Biofeedback is a training technique used to teach people how to regulate bodily functions. It teaches a person to be aware of how the body is functioning and how to use the brain to change bodily functions, including pain perception, body temperature, heart rate and blood pressure.
How Does Biofeedback Therapy Work?
While we know that biofeedback improves relaxation and reduces stress, information about exactly how and why it works is still lacking.
In 2010, a Cochrane review (recognized as the highest standard in clinical review) of biofeedback and other behavioral treatments for chronic low back concluded it to be more effective than conventional treatments for pain following back surgery. More recently, an article in the February-March 2014 edition of the Journal, American Psychologist described these treatments as the “gold standard” in psychological treatment for patients with many types of pain-related symptoms.
During a biofeedback therapy session, electrodes are attached to the skin and provide feedback on bodily functions that can include heart rate, breathing rate, blood pressure and body temperature. Feedback from these electrodes is used to change these functions. A biofeedback therapist will teach relaxation exercises and methods of controlling these bodily functions. Biofeedback can help reduce the brainwaves that are activated when joint pain is experienced.
Uses of Biofeedback Therapy
Biofeedback therapy is gaining acceptance as a viable treatment option for some conditions and is helpful in the treatment of many conditions including:
- Chronic pain
- Sleep Disorders
Biofeedback can be used to train chronic pain sufferers to identify the muscles that are tight so that they can learn to relax the muscles, thereby reducing the pain. Many chronic pain sufferers also suffer from anxiety, and biofeedback is very effective in helping people with anxiety to regulate their stress responses.
Limitations of Biofeedback
While biofeedback might be an effective therapy against a range of disorders, it relies on the active participation and self-discipline of the patient. Biofeedback can be a helpful addition to your treatment regimen, but it is not a replacement for medical treatment of chronic conditions. It is generally also difficult to find a biofeedback therapist properly trained in such treatments.