Imagine lowering your blood pressure with a blink of your eyes. It’s not quite that simple, but biofeedback therapy can teach you to control many body functions.
If you’ve studied biology, you’ve probably heard about the somatic and autonomic nervous systems. The first controls voluntary muscle movements, like raising your hand. The second regulates involuntary organ functions, like your heart rate and blood pressure.
In reality, the two systems are closely related. This helps explain why mind-body practices like biofeedback can help relieve symptoms related to stress and muscle tension, which contribute to many mental and physical health conditions.
Biofeedback may appeal to you if you’re interested in natural healing methods that are safe and noninvasive. Find out more about its benefits and uses.
Some biofeedback principles, like healing through relaxation, are as old as ancient medicine. In the 1960s, scientists began using electronic devices to monitor brain waves and other stress responses.
Keep these ideas in mind:
1. Find a practitioner that’s right for you. Most states have few restrictions on who can perform biofeedback services. To help find someone with training and experience, you can search online for certified providers at The Association for Applied Psychophysiology and Biofeedback.
2. Prepare for your sessions. A therapist will attach sensors to your skin to monitor your body functions and give you feedback on how to control them. You may also receive exercises to do at home.
3. Understand different methods. The type of biofeedback you’ll use depends on your purpose. For example, ADHD cases may involve electroencephalography (EEG) to measure brain waves, while an electromyogram (EMG) measures muscle activity related to back pain.
4. Check your insurance. Medicare and other providers sometimes cover biofeedback. You’ll probably need at least 10 sessions, so ask your insurance company or human resources department about your benefits.
You’ll find a very wide range of applications to choose from.
Research to date has shown mixed results in certain areas, but you may want to explore some of the most common and popular uses, such as:
1. Manage pain. Many patients report positive results with migraines and other sources of chronic pain. In addition to reducing your physical discomfort, biofeedback may help you cope with related emotional issues
2. Reduce incontinence. You can learn to strengthen your pelvic floor muscles. That will give you greater bladder control, especially if you also do Kegel exercises
3. Relieve anxiety. Many psychiatrists and psychologists favor biofeedback as part of behavioral treatments. Research shows that, in some cases, it can be as effective as medication.
Dealing with the effects of stress is fundamental to how biofeedback works. Your practitioner may introduce you to various methods you can use during your sessions and at home.
Practice these techniques to help you relax:
1. Try guided imagery. Visualize yourself in beautiful and peaceful settings. Engage your other senses to deepen the experience.
2. Scan your body. Pay attention to each part of your body working your way down from your head to your toes. Tighten each muscle group, and then slowly release it.
3. Do breathing exercises. Your breath has a powerful effect on your feelings. Train yourself to breathe from lower in your diaphragm rather than up in your chest. Lengthen each inhalation and exhalation.
Biofeedback is typically a supplement to conventional medical care rather than a replacement. Talk with your doctor so they can coordinate your treatment and help you decide if biofeedback is an option for you.
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