Alternate Medicine: Biofeedback

Biofeedback is a form of treatment wherein patients are trained to enrich their health by the use of their own body signals. Both physical therapists and psychologists use this technique, the first to treat stroke victims and the second to help anxious and tense people to relax. Other specialists also use biofeedback to help patients manage pain. It was in the late 1960s that the word “biofeedback” was coined.

Most of us have used biofeedback without knowing that we are doing so. For example when a thermometer or a scale tells you that you have fever or that you have gained weight, you take action accordingly to reduce the fever and your weight. These two devices “feed back” information for you to act upon. In the same way, practitioners of biofeedback use sophisticated instruments to detect a person’s bodily functions and use the information so gained to gauge and direct a line of treatment.

The biofeedback instrument is something like a sixth sense for a person. It allows them to “hear” or “see” an activity, for example, the electrical signals generated by muscle activity. These electrical signals are transformed into a form that the patient can either see or hear like a flashing bulb or a beeping sound when the muscle grows tense. The patient then tries to slow down the flashing or the beeping. The patient is taught to adjust himself so that the muscles relax. The therapist acts as a trainer and guides the patient as to how to improve his performance.

Today biofeedback is used to treat a long list of conditions that include:

  • A variety of pain conditions that include tension headaches, headaches and migraine
  • Digestive system disorders
  • High and low blood pressure
  • Raynaud’s is disease (a blood circulation abnormality that causes extremely cold hands)
  • Paralysis and such other disorders
  • Epilepsy

Specialists who provide training in this field include psychiatrists, psychologists, physical therapists, internists, dentists and nurses. Some form of relaxation exercise is taught to the patients and to identify those triggers that set off their symptoms. Guidance as to how to cope or avoid stressful events, changing their habits, gaining self-control are also taught. They are made to understand that feelings, thoughts and behavior deeply influence physical health.

If you feel that a biofeedback training might be of beneficial to you, you should discuss it with your healthcare professional or your physician. They may conduct tests to determine whether your condition can be cured using conventional therapy. Some neurological tests may also be carried out. No responsible practitioner of biofeedback will treat you for hypertension, headaches or other conditions without doing a complete set of tests.

Unusual demands are placed on the shoulders of the patient by biofeedback. They have to self-introvert to find out if their day-to-day activities are the causes of their own distress. They must also understand that it is only by their own efforts that some aliments can be alleviated. And of the utmost importance is the fact that they must recognize the fact that they are responsible for their own well being.