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What is biofeedback ?
During biofeedback, body functions, which usually occur unconsciously, such as respiration,
eye movement, muscle tension,brain activities are measured and fed back with suitable instruments.
These feedback signals are made visible by light signals and audible by sounds. The signals can be
used also by a therapist or trainer to help a person become more aware and conscious of what goes on 'inside'.
For instance, if chronic breathing patterns or stress have led to health problems such as tension headache,
high bloodpressure, timmitus, fear problems or hyperventilation, a person can become aware (through biofeedback)
of how these are linked to physiological processes and learn how to prevent or improve them.
The essence of Biofeedback is, that when a health problem has been caused by 'behaviour' a behavioural
or attitude change could undo that problem. Biofeedback is a non-invasive technique with no known side effects.
Article By The National Institutes of Health
Respiratory (breathing) biofeedback RFB
Breathing biofeedback (respiratory feedback) reflects the respiration by a visual and auditives feedback signal.
Scientific studies have shown that the feedback of the own respiration the most meaningful kind are a total
relaxation to learn. Controlled studies exist over the effectiveness of the procedure.
- Functional disturbances of heart and cycle, respiration, stomach and Darmtrakt
- positives influence of blood high pressure, attraction gastritis, asthma. - pain conditions of the HWS and LWS
- sleep disturbances, depressive failure conditions, fear conditions
- splutter, speech disturbances
- breath training for birth preparation
Eye movement biofeedback EOG
The EOG Biofeedback procedure, which registers and analyzes the movement of the muscles in the eye
area and uses the most modern computer technology for relaxation, is new. Scientific research has shown
that these muscle activities in the eye area during mental processes are responsible for depth relaxation:
if we succeed in relaxing these, the mind will also relax.
The EOG.micro biofeedback system directly affects the vegetative nervous system.
In this way the stress symptoms are counteracted and their undesired consequences are avoided.
- Pain syndromes
- Tinnitus,sleep disorder
- High blood pressure
- splutter, speech disturbances
- Mental training, e.g. in the area of sports
- Learning disabilities, learning training
The National Institutes of Health and Biofeedback
Alternative Medicine: Expanding Medical Horizons
Most traditional medical systems appreciate and make use of the extraordinary interconnectedness of the
mind and the body and power of each to affect the other. In contrast, modern Western medicine has regarded these
connections as of secondary importance.
The separation between mind and body was established during the 17th century. Originally it permitted medical science the freedom to explore and experiment on the body while preserving for the church the domain of the mind.
In the succeeding three centuries, the medicine that evolved from this focus on the body and its processes has yielded extraordinary discoveries about the nature and treatment of disease states.
However, this narrow focus has also tended to obscure the importance of the interactions between mind and body and to overshadow the possible importance of the mind in producing and alleviating disease. The focus of medical research has been on the biology of the body and of the brain, which is part of the body. Concern with the mind has been left to non-biologically oriented psychiatrists, other mental health professionals, philosophers, and theologians. Psychosomatic medicine, the discipline that has addressed mind-body connections, is a subspecialty within the specialty of psychiatry.
During the past 30 years, there has been a powerful scientific movement to explore the mind's capacity to affect the body and to rediscover the ways in which it permeates and is affected by all of the body's functions. This movement has received its impetus from several sources. It has been spurred by the rise in incidence of chronic illnesses -- including heart disease, cancer, depression, arthritis, and asthma -- which appear to be related to environmental and emotional stresses. The prevalence, destructiveness, and cost of these illnesses have set the stage for the exploration of therapies that can help individuals appreciate the sources of their stress and reduce that stress by quieting the mind and using it to mobilize the body to heal itself.
During the same time, medical researchers have discovered other cultures' healing systems, such as meditation, yoga, and tai chi, which are grounded in an understanding of the power of mind and body to affect one another; developed techniques such as biofeedback and visual imagery, which are capable of facilitating the mind's capacity to affect the body; and examined some of the specific links between mental processes and autonomic, immune, and nervous system functioning -- most dramatically illustrated by the growth of a new discipline, psychoneuroimmunology.
The clinical aspect of the enterprise that explores, appreciates, and makes use of mind-body interactions has come to be called mind-body medicine. The techniques that its practitioners use are mind-body interventions. The chapter discusses the evidence that supports the mind-body approach, describes some of these techniques, and summarizes the results of some of the most effective interventions.
This approach is not only producing dramatic results in specific arenas, it is forming the basis for a new perspective on medicine and healing. From this perspective it is becoming clear that every interaction between doctors and patients -- between those who give help and those who receive it -- may affect the mind and in turn the body of the patient. From this perspective all of medicine, indeed all of health care, is grounded in the mind-body approach. And all interventions, alternative or conventional, can be enhanced by it.
Originating in the late 1960s*, biofeedback is a treatment method that uses monitoring instruments to feed back to patients physiological information of which they are normally unaware. By watching the monitoring device, patients can learn by trial and error to adjust their thinking and other mental processes in order to control bodily processes heretofore thought to be involuntary, such as blood pressure, temperature, gastrointestinal functioning, and brain wave activity.
Biofeedback can be used to treat a wide variety of conditions and diseases ranging from stress, alcohol and other addictions, sleep disorders, epilepsy, respiratory problems, and fecal and urinary incontinence to muscle spasms, partial paralysis or muscle dysfunction caused by injury, migraine headaches, hypertension, and a variety of vascular disorders. More applications are being developed yearly.
In a normal session, electrodes are attached to the area being monitored (the involved muscles for muscle therapy, the head for brain wave activity); these electrodes feed the information to a small monitoring box that registers the results by a sound tone that varies in pitch or on a visual meter that varies in brightness as the function being monitored decreases or increases. A biofeedback therapist leads the patient in mental exercises to help the patient reach the desired result (e.g., muscle relaxation or contraction, or more alpha and theta brain waves). Through trial and error, patients gradually train themselves to control the inner mechanism involved. Training for some disorders requires 8 to 10 sessions. Patients with long-term or severe disorders may require longer therapy. Obviously, the aim of the treatment is to teach patients to regulate their own inner mental and bodily processes without help from the machine. In its simplest form, biofeedback therapy always involves a therapist, a patient, and a monitoring device capable of providing accurate physiological information.
A major reason why many patients like biofeedback training is that, like behavioral approaches in general, it puts them in charge, giving them a sense of mastery and self-reliance over their illnesses and health. Such an attitude may play a crucial role in the lower health care costs seen in patients after learning biofeedback skills.
In 1961, experimental psychologist Neal Miller proposed that the autonomic, or visceral, nervous system was entirely trainable. Miller's suggestion ran contrary to prevailing orthodoxy, which held that all autonomic responses -- heart rate, blood pressure, regional blood flow, gastrointestinal activity, and so on -- were beyond voluntary control. In a remarkable series of experiments he showed that instrumental learning and control of such processes were indeed possible. One result of his work was the creation of biofeedback therapy.
In the succeeding three decades, Miller's work has been expanded by scores of researchers. Approximately 3,000 articles and 100 books have been published to date describing biofeedback and its applications. There are currently about 10,000 practitioners in the United States. Two organizations certify biofeedback professionals and paraprofessionals, and more than 2,000 individuals have received national certification.
Biofeedback does not belong to any particular field of health care but is used in many disciplines, including internal medicine, dentistry, physical therapy and rehabilitation, psychology and psychiatry, pain management, and more.
The most common forms of biofeedback involve the measurement of muscle tension (electromyographic, or EMG, feedback), skin temperature (thermal feedback), electrical conductance or resistance of the skin (electrodermal feedback), brain waves (electroencephalographic, or EEG, feedback), and respiration. More recently, increasingly sophisticated measurement devices have expanded biofeedback possibilities. Sensors can now measure and feed back the activity of the internal and external rectal sphincters (for the treatment of fecal incontinence), the activity of the detrusor muscle of the urinary bladder (for the treatment of urinary incontinence), esophageal motility, and stomach acidity (pH). Currently there are approximately 150 applications for biofeedback. Medical awareness of biofeedback is increasing, and referrals to biofeedback clinics continue to climb. Some treatments are already widely accepted. The American Medical Association, for example, has endorsed EMG biofeedback training for treating muscle contraction headaches.
Research Accomplishments and Clinical Applications
Substantial research exists demonstrating the effectiveness of biofeedback in a number of conditions, including bronchial asthma, drug and alcohol abuse, anxiety, tension and migraine headaches, cardiac arrhythmias, essential hypertension, Raynaud's disease/syndrome, fecal and urinary incontinence, irritable bowel (spastic colon) syndrome, muscle reeducation (strengthening weak muscles, relaxing overactive ones), hyperactivity and attention deficit disorder, epilepsy, menopausal hot flashes, chronic pain syndromes, and anticipatory nausea and vomiting associated with chemotherapy (Basmajian, 1989).
Like all other forms of therapy, biofeedback is more useful for some clinical problems than for others. For example, biofeedback is the preferred treatment in Raynaud's disease/syndrome (a painful and potentially dangerous spasm of the small arteries) and certain types of fecal and urinary incontinence. However, it is one of several preferred treatments for muscle contraction (tension) headaches, migraine headaches, irritable bowel (spastic colon) syndrome, hypertension, asthma, and a variety of neuromuscular disorders, especially during rehabilitation. EEG biofeedback therapy is one of several preferred treatments for certain patients with epilepsy or attention deficit disorder.
*This date pertains to the origins of biofeedback use in the United States. Methods of which the American biofeedback originated were used in many different countries for many hundreds of years with great results. This fact attests to the validity and great utility of biofeedback in treatment of various maladies and dysfunctions. (AK)
Basmajian, J.V., ed. 1989. Biofeedback: Principles and Practice for Clinicians. Williams and Wilkins, Baltimore.
The National Institutes of Health. Alternative Medicine: Expanding Medical Horizons. A Report to the National Institutes of Health on Alternative Medical Systems and Practices in the United States. NIH Publication No. 94-066. 1994