While “Biofeedback Therapy” sounds complex and daunting, chances are you’ve already used a biofeedback device without actually knowing it. For example, when you step onto a scale to weigh yourself, you register the number and determine whether or not you’re at your target weight. You then can make adjustments to your diet and exercise routine to either lower or raise the number. The feedback of that number on the scale affects your behavior. Another classic example is a thermometer which tells you how high your temperature is. If the number is high and you have a fever, you take steps to reduce that fever, and continue to do so until the thermometer registers a normal temperature. These are two examples of basic biofeedback in action. Modern Biofeedback Therapy goes much further than merely monitoring weight or temperature, but the basic principle remains the same.
But - can Biofeedback Therapy cure disease or illnesses?
Conditions such as tension headaches and migraines, epilepsy, and even paralysis can show signs of improvement through Biofeedback Therapy. One of the biggest breakthroughs when it comes to this type of therapy has been with patients recovering from a stroke. It has been possible for such patients to regain use of certain muscle groups by receiving signals from a biofeedback machine that can lead doctors to effectively target treatment to those areas which still register as active. In addition, Biofeedback Therapy has been successfully administered in internal medical conditions, disorders related to the digestive systems and cardiovascular system such as Cardiac Arrhythmias. As the scope of practice continues to increase, more medical practitioners are adopting it from physical therapists to nurses, dentists and psychologists. These diverse practitioners are helping to expand the research and use of Biofeedback Therapy as they add their own areas of expertise to the current models of treatment, allowing for greater diversity and range of treatment models.
But we still haven’t answered the question of how Biofeedback Therapy works. The answer is that scientist still don’t fully understand it themselves. The exact mechanisms and processes at work are still being discovered. What scientists do know is that Biofeedback Therapy patients are trained be in a more relaxed state, and this in turn can actually modify their behavior. Many scientists that have studied Biofeedback Therapy have concluded that this relaxation is a major factor in the treatment process as it is a well known that stress can make certain conditions worse. Stressful situations, such as illness and going through treatment, also have a serious emotional impact on the patient that can further damage their recovery. These responses are controlled by the sympathetic nervous system, a part of the body that controls basic survival instincts including the “fight or flight” response. Relaxing the patient can counteract the rise of these stressful feelings, and can be very effective in countering the affects of many conditions as well as positively changing the way a patient responds to symptoms.
Biofeedback Therapy can provide some level of treatment for a wide variety medical conditions, and the scope of practice continues to increase as research and development being to fully understand the mechanisms at work and find new ways to use this treatment in practical applications. Although it is necessary to speak to a medical professional before considering this type of therapy, adding Biofeedback Therapy to an existing medical treatment plan can provide an effective supplement to current treatment for a wide range of conditions.
In conclusion - Biofeedback Therapy is not a cure for anyone in itself. However, the more we learn about this method, the more it can be accepted by mainstream medical communities as a viable, effective method to increase positive patient outcomes.