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What is Biofeedback?

Biofeedback is a holistic treatment technique that trains patients to improve their health by using their own body’s signals. To illustrate, occupational therapists may use it to help injured workers regain movement in paralyzed areas. Psychologists sometimes use it to help clients with anxiety problems relax and release tension.

The Basics

This holistic practice actually refers to a group of therapeutic procedures that use electronic machines or electromechanical instruments to accurately measure and provide feedback to patients and therapists. The bio-data gained from these instruments is used to educate patients about their normal and abnormal neuromuscular and autonomic activities. These machines may use analog auditory or binary visual feedback signals. The best results are achieved through the supervision of a competent professional who helps clients develop greater awareness of and better voluntary control over physiological processes.

These professionals help their patients to control physiological signals and symptoms by cognitive techniques, physical sensations and other standard cues to prevent, reduce or stop symptoms. These professionals use various models to achieve results. These include the psychological concepts of cognition, placebo effects and feed-forward processes. It may include the psychology models of Bandura’s self-efficacy, the patient education model and the Rosenthal interpersonal expectancy model.

A Brief History

The term biofeedbacking was created during the late 1960s to describe rudimentary lab procedures used to train research subjects to alter things like heart rate, blood pressure, brain activity and other basic bodily functions. During this time, experimental psychologists and scientists thought that people could one day simply will themselves to be more creative or confident by changing their brainwave patterns. Some even believed that biofeedback-based technology would empower physicians to eliminate drug treatments that cause uncomfortable and unhealthy side effects.

Today, scientists and psychologists realize that these original expectations will never come to fruition. However, ample research proves that biofeedbacking patients can help treat many painful conditions and disease types. Research shows that people have much more control over involuntary bodily functions, but many scientists are still skeptical. Many psychologists and doctors strongly feel that biofeedbacking techniques are quasi-scientific nonsense.

The Benefits of Biofeedbacking

Clinical biofeedback-based techniques are widely used to treat various health and medical conditions. This includes migraine and tension headaches, digestive system disorders, high and low blood pressure, cardiac abnormalities and circulatory disorders. It also includes epilepsy, paralysis and movement disorders. Professional specialists provide training to psychiatrists, dentists, nurses and physical therapists. These medical professionals will always incorporate this technique with other evidence-based techniques from medical science.

During the initial session, professional specialists teach patients some relaxation exercises. Then, they teach them how to identify the circumstances that trigger their physiological symptoms. Next, they are taught how to physically avoid or cope with stress triggers and environments. Patients are encouraged to alter their thought patterns, lifestyle habits and consequential choices. This medical technique cannot cure diseases or make people healthy. Instead, it is a holistic tool used by health care professionals to help their patients raise awareness and take greater control over their behavior, thoughts and feelings.

Many types of professionals in different fields use this science to help their patients better control their physiological pain, activities and reactions. Professional specialists who conduct biofeedback-based sessions should have an accredited college degree and certification through the Biofeedback Certification International Alliance (BCIA).

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