Sunday, February 18, 2018
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Biofeedback is a treatment technique in which people are trained to improve their health by using signals from their own bodies. Physical therapists use biofeedback to help stroke victims regain movement in paralyzed muscles. Psychologists use it to help tense and anxious clients learn to relax. Specialists in many different fields use biofeedback to help their patients cope with pain.

Chances are you have used biofeedback yourself. You've used it if you have ever taken your temperature or stepped on a scale. The thermometer tells you whether you're running a fever, the scale whether you've gained weight. Both devices "feed back" information about your body's condition. Armed with this information, you can take steps you've learned to improve the condition. When you're running a fever, you go to bed and drink plenty of fluids. When you've gained weight, you resolve to eat less and sometimes you do.

Clinicians rely on sophisticated biofeedback instruments in somewhat the same way you rely on your scale or thermometer. Their instruments can detect a person’s internal bodily functions with far greater sensitivity and precision then the person can alone. Typical biofeedback instruments measure and feedback muscle activity, heart rate, breathing pattern, sweat gland activity, and finger or toe temperature. When the person is attached to the biofeedback instruments, determination can be made as to whether the person is stressed or relaxed. Once measures of stress are determined the person can learn, through techniques provided by the clinician and watching or listening to the biofeedback instrument, to achieve a goal such as relaxing-at-will, sometimes called “self-regulation”. Both the patients and the clinician use the information from the instruments to gauge and direct the progress of treatment.

For patients, the biofeedback instrument acts as a kind of sixth sense which allows them to “see” or “hear” the activity inside their bodies. By being able to “see” or “hear” the body’s activity a person can learn to change and control the activity at will. For example, if a person is attached to an EMG biofeedback instrument via sensors placed on the skin over the muscle the sensors “read” the level of tension of their muscle activity. The biofeedback instrument will give a visual display and tone related to the level of muscle activity. If the muscle is tense the visual display will be higher or the tone will be faster. And if the muscle is relaxed the visual display will be lower and the tone slower like a pitcher learning to throw a ball across a home plate, the biofeedback trainee, in an attempt to improve a skill, monitors the performance. When a pitch is off the mark, the ballplayer adjusts the delivery so that he performs better the next time he tries. When the light flashes or the beeper beeps too often, the biofeedback trainee makes internal adjustments which alter the signals. The biofeedback therapist acts as a coach, standing at the sidelines setting goals and limits on what to expect and giving instruction on how to improve performance.


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