What is Biofeedback?

Biofeedback is a scientifically based method that immediately displays the patients learning curve that enables control of otherwise unconscious bodily functions. Biofeedback could also be called an image processing system in psychosomatic medicine. Via biofeedback, physiological responses to stress- or relaxation-related situations are measured and reported back to patients in a simple and understandable manner (=feedback).

The objective of biofeedback therapy is to enable patients to control (autonomous) physiological reactions to stress in order to relieve stress-induced symptoms.

Insight into the relationship between body and mind
Patients may find it hard to accept that mental or psychological factors can cause diseases. Biofeedback facilitates the realization of “invisible influences” of the mind activated by thoughts, feelings or fears, especially for “skeptical patients”. This happens via objectively visible parameters onscreen. Thus, patients’ individual models of diseases open up to psychological causes.

Biofeedback in Psychology and Psychosomatic Medicine

Biofeedback for Relaxation Training

Relaxation training helps to consciously integrate phases of regeneration in daily routines. The learned techniques can reduce many psychosomatic symptoms and prevent negative consequences of chronic stress. Biolife-Therapy library for Relaxation training.

Relaxation is achieved particularly through training sessions in breathing, distractions, suggestions or mental images. Many patients, intending to learn relaxation techniques, experience low body awareness and deficient in trusting one’s own ability to relax. The misguided effort, pressure to succeed, as well as, fear of losing control inhibit relaxation. Biofeedback allows clients to see their SUCCESS immediately onscreen by applying relaxation techniques. These have a positive and relaxing effects the body – even absent of conscious perception. Expectations regarding self-efficacy also increases.

Biofeedback in the therapy of Anxiety and panic disorders

Anxiety is a significant obstacle in everyday life of people who suffer from this illness and can (partly) lead to massive psychological strain. Using Biofeedback as a therapeutic intervention method for anxiety disorders can be considered as a complementary therapy that supports the self-competency of patients and influences the progress of the therapy positively.

Biofeedback for Stress-diagnosis

Before starting a relaxation treatment , it is useful to answer some question first.

The stress profile is used to answer the following questions:

  • Which body system reacts most strongly to mental stress?
  • Which body system shows a delayed recovery after the stressor?
  • Which content triggers the strongest physiological response?

The physical reaction to stressors and the ability to relax after the stressor is objectively measured and tested and the psycho-physiological effects of certain contents (ideas, people, situations, images) is shown. Biofeedback can also be used to detect which relaxation technique (AT, PMR, etc.) is most appropriate for a patient.

Sleeping disorders

Chronic sleeping disorders are often accompanied by stressful life events, increased general anxiety, depression, as well as anxiety relating to the disorder itself.

A common treatment method for insomnia involves prescription drugs. While offering satisfactory effects on one hand, these drugs are accompanied by considerable drawbacks (deterioration of diurnal affectivity, addiction or increase in dose due to tolerance).

While sleeping pills should be prescribed only in addition to therapy, especially during crisis, behavior-orientated therapies, such as biofeedback offer long-lasting effectiveness and lack possible side effects. Thus, biofeedback is regarded as first-line treatment.

Treatment of pain

Chronic stress and tension often result in a vicious circle of tension and pain which leads to chronic pain disorders.

Many patients are unaware that these tensions exist, they have become used to it.

One of the most usefull effects of biofeedback is to show individuals the status quo and make them aware of  the cause of their pain. Biofeedback helps patients by learning conscious relaxation to break the vicious circle.

The following pain disorders are treated with biofeedback:

Biofeedback for headache and back pain

Throughout their lives 70% of the population suffer from tension headaches, 15% from migraines. The German headache and migraine society mentions biofeedback as the most effective non-drug method for the treatment of this indications.

Even more individuals (80%) suffer from chronic back pain. Therapy trials showed that biofeedback had the biggest and most stable therapeutic results in the treatment of chronic back pain.

Through breath or EMG-Biofeedback the patients learn to consciously relax different muscle groups, which leads to lower level of pain. In addition, the improved body awareness is also useful in stress situations.

Bruxism and spasmodic torticollis

Training and consolidation of general relaxation skills precede EMG feedback which will subsequently be collected of the M. masseter, the M. temporalis and the M. frontalis in order to train discriminative perception of the muscles. This skill can be used to independently maintain a relaxed state of the affected muscles and to ensure to be lastingly free of symptoms.

Via feedback of the M. frontalis general relaxation is trained. After consolidation of this skill precise training will focus on discriminative muscle perception through different stress levels of the EMG signal (e.g. 5μV-15μV-30μV-60μV, recordings of M. masseter). Increase in training, especially for bruxism alongside dental damage, is achieved via massaged practise to build-up a conditioned, reactive inhibition in accordance with additional training of relaxation and contraction of the M. masseter.

Spasmodic torticollis

EMG feedback is given bilaterally on the M. sternocleidomastoids in order to train both reduction of tension as well as balancing both SCM muscles in accordance with increasing level of difficulty of the exercises along advancement of therapy.

After general relaxation training (EMG of M. frontalis or feedback on SCL) exercises progress to bilateral feedback of the M. sternocleidomastoids. If patients achieve the goals of this phase of therapy (conscious reduction of tension of the affected muscle, balancing out both SCM muscles, contraction or relaxation of the non-affected SCM muscle), these skills can be trained under gradually increasing difficulty (while lying down, standing, sitting, moving, during a conversation…). It is recommended for patients to practice at home as well (relaxation practices, movement exercises of the neck). Therapy should be concluded with booster sessions after six or 12 months.

Biofeedback in medicine

Many medical and psychological relevant indications can be treated with biofeedback.

From an adjuvant support to an exposure therapy for anxiety and phobias, muscle building exercises after strokes, to the widely documented effects on incontinence -  Biofeedback is a useful therapy or support for many diseases.

Biofeedback in the treatment of essential hypertension

Essential hypertension covers all diseases concerning regulation of blood pressure which lead to chronically increased blood pressure in absence of organic causes. Hypertension is considered the major risk factor for cardiac infarction and stroke. Along with high cholesterol level and smoking, these constitute the major risk factors for cardiovascular and cerebrovascular diseases.

Patients are led to conscious variation in vascular resistance and increase in heart rate variability (RSA) by way of practising general relaxation techniques (e.g. abdominal breathing) which results in ongoing relief of the cardiovascular system. Optimal interaction between respiration and cardiovascular system increases general well-being, reduces blood pressure and subsequently facilitates medical treatment.

Biofeedback for the treatment of Morbus Raynaud

Morbus Raynaud is expressed through numbness, pain and low temperature in fingers and toes which can expand to the whole hand or foot as well as to the whole face in rare cases. The disease is related to dysfunctions of the peripheral blood supply leading to massive ischemia. According to a Danish study 22% of women aged 21-50 years suffer from Morbus Raynaud.

At first training of hand warming is implemented under relaxation phases, afterwards cold stimuli (room temperature, objects) are introduced and training continues. Constancy of training effects and therapeutic success can be achieved through training at home without feedback and subjectively estimating the changes in temperature.

Biofeedback constitutes as a very successful and effective method of treatment for urinary and faecal incontinence. The muscle tone of the pelvic floor can be measured using vaginal and rectal electrodes and is shown patients onscreen. The muscle can be trained in systematic sequences of contraction and relaxation. High success rates, absence of side effect and acknowledgment of patients’ active role in treatment sum up essential advantages of non-invasive and non-medicinal biofeedback therapy.

Pareses and Paralysis

The purpose of training for patients with paresis or paralysis is efficient and extensive rehabilitation of as many as possible impaired functions due to damage to the central nervous system, damage to the spinal cord or nerve damage in the periphery. It was possible to prove efficiency of Biofeedback under a great many specific applications. Particularly patients’ motivation increases with regard to visualizing residual activity in the EMG as well as accelerating treatment trough systematic training.

Neurofeedback

In neurofeedback brain waves of the patient are displayed on a screen. With this representation conclusions about attention and awareness can be drawn. This feedback makes it possible to control the patient's own brain wave patterns themselve.

With the Neuromaster and an EEG Neuro module, you can offer your patients and clientes the opportunity to influence their innermost.

Neurofeedback in the treatment of ADHD

Neurofeedback is a scientifically recognized method which can be applied to treat disorders related to decreased cognitive performance such as ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder) in order to increase cognitive performance once again. Children suffering from ADHD often show a reduced attention span or an increased motoric activity (e.g. standing up frequently) leading to problems in school. As a result these children might perform poorly at school despite of some being very intelligent. Neurofeedback is a method of treatment featuring long-lasting therapeutic effects which are shown by several studies.

Neurofeedback is a non-invasive method using EEG feedback in order to restructure children’s neuronal networks which will subsequently improve symptoms. This is achieved through training of specific frequency bands that are different in children suffering from ADHD compared to healthy controls. “Frequency band training” means to report these parameters to the patients and to practice and consolidate an attentive yet relaxed state of mind with the aid of the therapist. Frequent trainings as well as transferring exercises at home ensure that children memorize this state of mind and are able to retrieve it in daily life.

What is measured?

Skin conductance (SCL)

The skin conductance provides information on the sweat gland activity of the finger and is considered a good indicator of the stress level of the patient.

Electroencephalogram - Neurofeedback

Here, patients learn to influence their brain waves themselves. Aside of clinical indications such as ADHD, neurofeedback is also used for PeakPerformance-Training.

Pulse rate (HRV)

With heart rate variability training synchronicity of heartbeat and respiration is trained, which positively affects the stress reactions of the client.

EMG muscle tension

The patient gains control over his/her muscle tension. The goal is a reduction of too much tension which often manifests itself in chronic pain conditions.

Breath (RESP)

We train depth of breathing, respiratory rate, and a conscious abdominal breathing. This quick-to-learn techniques help the patient to actively respond to stress and strain.

Temperature (TEMP)

Whith temperature training the ability to heat the finger is acquired intentionally by relaxation.

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