Biofeedback Offers Insight Into MInd/Body Interactions
Biofeedback Instantaneously “Feeds Back” Information About Bodily Changes
Biofeedback is a process in which sensitive devices are used to monitor the body and then “feed back” the information to you as you learn to control bodily functions. Most commonly the goal is to achieve combined physical and mental relaxation. Relaxation techniques are first taught and they provide the strategies you employ to reduce tension or arousal. The biofeedback device provides moment-to-moment updates on your degree of success. The extreme sensitivity of the biofeedback device allows you to identify very small improvement and thereby recognize which strategies are successful.
This unique combination of speed and sensitivity greatly enhance your ability to learn how to relax
Traditional Forms of Biofeedback
- Muscle Tension
- Hand Temperature
- Sweat Gland Activity
- Heart Rate
- Respiration Rate
The Newest Form of Biofeedback
One involves monitoring subtle differences in the timing of the individual heart beat. Heart rate variability utilizes the well know observation that when you are relaxed your heart tends to speed up as you inhale and slow down as you exhale. The size of the difference between the fastest and slowest heart beats provides a very useful index of relaxation.
Role of Relaxation Training
Most forms of biofeedback require that you first learn how to relax effectively. Then the biofeedback device helps you relax more effectively. Many people learn how to relax so effectively that biofeedback is not even necessary to control or prevent their symptoms.
Biofeedback In Your Pocket
Inexpensive, miniature biofeedback devices have recently become available which allow anyone to carry a very
sophisticated biofeedback laboratory in their pocket. I will soon be publishing a whitepaper on this site comparing many of the devices. I will help you decide if you are likely to benefit from owning one and will offer guidance in how to select the one that would be best for you. Please check this site in the future if you would like a copy. These devices usually come with a money-back guarantee.
Two of the most newest forms of biofeedback are also the most exciting.
Biofeedback on Your Mobile Phone
My favorite new development is the transfer of biofeedback technology from the PC to the cell phone. You can actually have the same type of feedback that I most commonly use, heart rate variability, through your iPhone. A cable attaches the sensor from your body to the phone.
Biofeedback for Panic Attacks
The other exciting new development in biofeedback involves the monitoring of the concentration of carbon dioxide in the breath. A medical device called an infrared capnometer is used for this purpose. The use of respiratory biofeedback for panic attacks provides an illustration of this technique. In most panic attacks changes in respiration cause a decrease in carbon dioxide in the blood streem and trigger the unpleasant physical sensations that are often perceived at the start of a panic attack. The capnometer is used to sample the air exhaled from the body and determine the concentration of carbon dioxide or CO2. A special type of breathing is taught which rapidly increases the concentration of CO2 in the blood stream. By watching the display you can actually see the results of the breathing method and perfect your technique)
Biofeedback for Migraine Headaches
The use of thermal biofeedback for migraine headaches provides a useful illustration. As you become deeply relaxed the blood vessels tend to relax. As the blood vessels relax they expand and blood flows more easily through them. The increased blood flow produces a warming in the hands. Some of the equipment I use can detect a change as small as 1/1,500 of a degree. As you become skilled in warming the hands you can decrease the constriction and spasticity of the blood vessels. The blood vessels in your head tend to show the same response. If you warm your hands in this way as a migraine attack is just starting you can often reverse the process of the migraine. The same handwarming skill can also be used with irritable bowel syndrome and labile hypertension.
Read Dr. Wilson quoted on The Street.com about biofeedback.