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Alternative medicine - Biofeedback

Posted Dec 04 2010 12:00am

Biofeedback can help improve your health. As an alternative treatment, biofeedback techniques can control stress, migraines, and even blood pressure.

Long ago, experts thought that many of the body's internal processes, such as blood pressure, heart rate, and skin temperature, were outside of our control. However, in the 1950s and '60s, researchers began realizing that you can influence some of your body's functions, with a little help from biofeedback.

What Is Biofeedback?

Biofeedback is an alternative medicine technique that allows a person to control certain bodily functions that typically occur automatically, such as heart rate, blood pressure, and muscle tension. It may alleviate a variety of troublesome conditions and improve emotional and physical health.

Biofeedback: How It Works

During biofeedback sessions, a therapist applies sensors to your skin that monitor certain factors, such as
    * Muscle tension
    * Skin temperature
    * Heart rate
    * Brain waves

Devices then relay these measurements to you in a way that you can see or hear, such as images on a computer screen or an audible tone. By relaxing your body or directing your thoughts a certain way, you can control these images or sounds and, thus, influence the bodily process that's being measured.

Biofeedback: Does It Work?

Researchers have investigated biofeedback's possible effects on many common conditions and have found that it may offer a variety of benefits, including
  • Stress reduction. Biofeedback is often used to help improve a person's ability to manage stress. A biofeedback therapist can use this equipment to help you become aware of when your body is responding in an unhealthy manner to stressful situations — say, with tensed muscles — and help you learn to control this reaction.
  • Headaches. Several studies compiling the results of previous research have found that you can reduce the frequency of headaches by up to 50 percent or more using biofeedback. According to American Academy of Neurology guidelines, thermal biofeedback along with relaxation training and EMG (electromyographic) biofeedback may be helpful for preventing migraines. Thermal biofeedback involves changing your skin temperature, and thus your blood flow, while EMG biofeedback involves altering your muscle tension.
  • High blood pressure. Although research has found conflicting results, biofeedback may be helpful in lowering high blood pressure. With effective biofeedback, you may be able to lower your blood pressure by 6 to 10 mm Hg. This is less than you could expect from medications, but even small decreases in blood pressure can be beneficial for your health. Biofeedback may be particularly helpful for individuals with higher blood pressure.
  •  Raynaud's phenomenon. In this condition, spasms in the blood vessels supplying your hands or feet reduce the blood flow to these parts. As a result, your fingers or toes may become numb or painful and turn white or even blue. Thermal biofeedback, in which you learn to influence blood flow by observing your skin's temperature, may decrease the severity and number of Raynaud's attacks.
  • Stroke rehabilitation. Biofeedback may be a useful tool in helping people regain functions that have been affected by a stroke. For example, biofeedback may help treat stroke-related paralysis, loss of balance, and difficulty swallowing, according to a recent study.

Biofeedback: Where to Find It

Different types of health professionals can be trained to help patients using biofeedback equipment. These include
  • Psychiatrists and other types of doctor
  • Psychologists
  • Nurses
Biofeedback: Length of Treatment

Each session generally lasts about one hour; people tend to see results after about 10 sessions. However, you could require more, depending on the reason you are receiving the biofeedback treatment.

A huge plus with biofeedback is that there are no side effects from the treatment, unlike those you could experience with taking medicines.

If you have stress, headaches, or other health issues, learning to control your body's inner processes using biofeedback may help.

Thank you, Everydayhealth.com

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