[MOL] Article-biofeedback and stress management [01105] Medicine On Line

[Date Prev][Date Next][Thread Prev][Thread Next][Date Index][Thread Index]

[MOL] Article-biofeedback and stress management

Title: What is Biofeedback?
Good Day My Friends,

Each day I would like to present articles in the field of wellness. That encumbers many  different aspects to wellness and I am hoping that some of these articles will provide some food for thought in your goals for wellness. While there will be many and all varied and at times overwhelming, I am encouraged to have this opportunity to present these articles of education to you in the hopes that you will understand that the medical community, integrative as well as  conventional, has come a long way in their findings and research to find cure and maintenance. While cure is not presented in the form of a Salk Vaccine, it is essential to understand , in the terms of hope, that many have been cured of their malignancies or major conditions, by utilizing whatever was necessary and productive for them. There are many who utilized integrative therapies in combination and usually that is the most productive, say whether nutrition, exercise, spirituality, etc and many more. So, with that in mind, this is a series of articles or info-mation educational series that may be of some interest to you. Just previous to this, I had presented Ayurvedics. Hope this article will be of some interest as well. I will also send information on where Ayurvedics and Biofeedback centers are for your interes.

God Bless You,
marty auslander

This Material was written by Bette Runck, staff wrtier, Division of Communication and Education, National Institue of Mental Health.

NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF MENTAL HEALTH- Division fo Scientific and Public Information-Plain Talk Series- Ruth Kay, Editor

What is Biofeedback?

Biofeedback is a treatment technique in which people are trained to improve their health
by using signals from their own bodies. Physical therapists use biofeedback to help stroke
victims regain movement in paralyzed muscles. Psychologists use it to help tense and
anxious clients learn to relax. Specialists in many different fields use biofeedback to help
their patients cope with pain.

Chances are you have used biofeedback yourself. You've used it if you have ever taken
your temperature or stepped on a scale. The thermometer tells you whether you're
running a fever, the scale whether you've gained weight. Both devices "feed back" informa
tion about your body's condition. Armed with this information, you can take steps you've
learned to improve the condition. When you're running a fever, you go to bed and drink
plenty of fluids. When you've gained weight, you resolve to eat less and sometimes you

Clinicians reply on complicated biofeedback machines in somewhat the same way that you
rely on your scale or thermometer. Their machines can detect a person's internal bodily
functions with far greater sensitivity and precision than a person can alone. This
information may be valuable. Both patients and therapists use it to gauge and direct the
progress of treatment.

For patients, the biofeedback machine acts as a kind of sixth sense which allows them to
"see" or "hear" activity inside their bodies. One commonly used type of machine, for
example, picks up electrical signals in the muscles. It translates these signals into a form
that patients can detect: It triggers a flashing light bulb, perhaps, or activates a beeper every
time muscles grow more tense. If patients want to relax tense muscles, they try to slow
down the flashing or beeping.

Like a pitcher learning to throw a ball across a home plate, the biofeedback trainee, in an
attempt to improve a skill, monitors the performance. When a pitch is off the mark, the
ballplayer adjusts the delivery so that he performs better the next time he tries. When the
light flashes or the beeper beeps too often, the biofeedback trainee makes internal
adjustments which alter the signals. The biofeedback therapist acts as a coach, standing at
the sidelines setting goals and limits on what to expect and giving hints on how to
improve performance.

The Beginnings of Biofeedback

The word "biofeedback" was coined in the late 1960s to describe laboratory procedures then
being used to train experimental research subjects to alter brain activity, blood pressure,
heart rate, and other bodily functions that normally are not controlled voluntarily.
At the time, many scientists looked forward to the day when biofeedback would give us a
major degree of control over our bodies. They thought, for instance, that we might be able
to "will" ourselves to be more creative by changing the patterns of our brainwaves. Some
believed that biofeedback would one day make it possible to do away with drug treatments
that often cause uncomfortable side effects in patients with high blood pressure and other
serious conditions.

Today, most scientists agree that such high hopes were not realistic. Research has
demonstrated that biofeedback can help in the treatment of many diseases and painful
conditions. It has shown that we have more control over so-called involuntary bodily fun
ction than we once though possible. But it has also shown that nature limits the extent of
such control. Scientists are now trying to determine just how much voluntary control we
can exert.

How is Biofeedback Used Today?

Clinical biofeedback techniques that grew out of the early laboratory procedures are now
widely used to treat an ever-lengthening list of conditions. These include:

Specialists who provide biofeedback training range from psychiatrists and psychologists to
dentists, internists, nurses, and physical therapists. Most rely on many other techniques in
addition to biofeedback. Patients usually are taught some form of relaxation exercise. Some
learn to identify the circumstances that trigger their symptoms. They may also be taught
how to avoid or cope with these stressful events. Most are encouraged to change their
habits, and some are trained in special techniques for gaining such self-control. Biofeedback
is not magic. It cannot cure disease or by itself make a person healthy. It is a tool, one of
many available to health care professionals. It reminds physicians that behavior, thoughts,
and feelings profoundly influence physical health. And it helps both patients and doctors
understand that they must work together as a team.

Patients' Responsibilities

Biofeedback places unusual demands on patients. They must examine their day-to-day
lives to learn if they may be contributing to their own distress. They must recognize that
they can, by their own efforts, remedy some physical ailments. They must commit th
emselves to practicing biofeedback or relaxation exercises every day. They must change bad
habits, even ease up on some good ones. Most important, they must accept much of the
responsibility for maintaining their own health.

How Does Biofeedback Work?

Scientists cannot yet explain how biofeedback works. Most patients who benefit from
biofeedback are trained to relax and modify their behavior. Most scientists believe that
relaxation is a key component in biofeedback treatment of many disorders, particularly
those brought on or made worse by stress.
Their reasoning is based on what is known about the effects of stress on the body. In brief,
the argument goes like this: Stressful events produce strong emotions, which arouse
certain physical responses. Many of these responses are controlled by the sympathetic
nervous system, the network of nerve tissues that helps prepare the body to meet
emergencies by "flight or fight."

The typical pattern of response to emergencies probably emerged during the time when all
humans faced mostly physical threats. Although the "threats" we now live with are
seldom physical, the body reacts as if they were: The pupils dilate to let in more light. Sweat
pours out, reducing the chance of skin cuts. Blood vessels near the skin contract to reduce
bleeding, while those in the brain and muscles dilate to increase the oxygen supply. The
gastrointestinal tract, including the stomach and intestines, slows down to reduce the
energy expensed in digestion. The heart beats faster, and blood pressure rises.
Normally, people calm down when a stressful event is over especially if they have done
something to cope with it. For instance, imagine your own reactions if you're walking
down a dark street and hear someone running toward you. You get scared. Your body p
repared you to ward off an attacker or run fast enough to get away. When you do escape,
you gradually relax.

If you get angry at your boss, it's a different matter. Your body may prepare to fight. But
since you want to keep your job, you try to ignore the angry feelings. Similarly, if on the
way home you get stalled in traffic, there's nothing you can do to get away. These situations
can literally may you sick. Your body has prepared for action, but you cannot act.
Individuals differ in the way they respond to stress. In some, one function, such as blood
pressure, becomes more active while others remain normal. Many experts believe that
these individual physical responses to stress can become habitual. When the body is
repeatedly aroused, one or more functions may become permanently overactive. Actual
damage to bodily tissues may eventually result.

Biofeedback is often aimed at changing habitual reactions to stress that can cause pain or
disease. Many clinicians believe that some of their patients and clients have forgotten how
to relax. Feedback of physical responses such as skin temperature and muscle tension
provides information to help patients recognize a relaxed state. The feedback signal may
also act as a kind of reward for reducing tension. It's like a piano teacher whose frown
turns to a smile when a young musician finally plays a tune properly.

The value of a feedback signal as information and reward may be even greater in the
treatment of patients with paralyzed or spastic muscles. With these patients, biofeedback
seems to be primarily a form of skill training like learning to pitch a ball. Instead of
watching the ball, the patient watches the machine, which monitors activity in the affected
muscle. Stroke victims with paralyzed arms and legs, for example, see that some part of
their affected limbs remains active. The signal from the biofeedback machine proves it.
This signal can guide the exercises that help patients regain use of their limbs. Perhaps just
as important, the feedback convinces patients that the limbs are still alive. This reassurance
often encourages them to continue their efforts.

Should You Try Biofeedback?

If you think you might benefit from biofeedback training, you should discuss it with your
physician or other health care professional, who may wish to conduct tests to make certain
that your condition does not require conventional medical treatment first. Responsible
biofeedback therapists will not treat you for headaches, hypertension, or most disorders
until you have had a thorough physical examination. Some require neurological tests as

How do you find a biofeedback therapist? First, ask your doctor or dentist, or contact the
nearest community health center, medical society, or State biofeedback society for a referral.
The psychology or psychiatry departments at nearby universities may also be able to help
you. Most experts recommend that you consult only a health care professional a physician,
psychologist, psychiatrist, nurse, social worker, dentist, physical therapist, for example who
has been trained to use biofeedback.


The Association for Applied Psychophysiology and Biofeedback (formerly the Biofeedback Society of America)
10200 W. 44th Avenue
Suite 304
Wheat Ridge, CO 80033-2840
Phone: 1-800-477-8892 / 303-422-8436
Fax: 303-422-8894
E-mail: AAPB@resourcenter.com

AAPB is the national membership association for professionals using biofeedback. AAPB holds a national meeting, offers CE programs, produces a journal and newsmagazine and other biofeedback related publications.

The Biofeedback Certification Institute of America
10200 W. 44th Avenue
Suite 304
Wheat Ridge, CO 80033-2840

The BCIA was estabilished as an independent agency to provide national certification for biofeedback providers.

This Material Was provided through:
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
Division of Communications and Education, National Institute of Mental Health
Public Health Service - Alcohol, Drug Abuse and Mental Health Administration
5600 Fishers Lane
Rockville, MD 20857 USA