04 Feb Biofeedback Therapy for Pain Relief
Biofeedback therapy is a technique that allows people to control involuntary processes of the body in order to improve their health, such as heart rate, blood pressure, muscle tension, skin temperature, etc.
Electrodes are placed on different parts of the body to measure heart rate, blood pressure, etc. and the measurements are displayed on a monitor. A biofeedback therapist works with the patients and guides them through relaxation techniques. The monitor provides instant feedback in terms of changes in heart rate and blood pressure in response to stress or relaxation. This feedback is initially for observation but eventually one is able to achieve success without the use of the feedback. Biofeedback is an effective therapy for many conditions, but it is primarily used to treat high blood pressure, tension headache, migraine headache, chronic pain, etc.
There are several body functions that can be measured and monitored in biofeedback techniques. These include:
Electroencephalogram (EEG): This is a neurofeedback technique. An EEG monitors the activity of brainwaves and can be used to measure changes in them in different mental states, such as wakefulness, relaxation, calmness, sleep, etc.
Electromyogram (EMG): An EMG measures muscle tension. Stress tends to increase muscle tension so an EMG device informs the patient right away of the growing tension and the underlying stress.
Galvanic skin response training: This method measures the activity of a person’s sweat glands and the amount of perspiration on the skin, which is indicative of one’s anxiety. This information can be useful in treating emotional disorders but also stress related to chronic pain.
Temperature biofeedback: This approach measures skin temperature in order to detect the drop in body surface temperature as a result of stress, which may be secondary to pain or other factors. A low reading is supposed to prompt a person to begin relaxation techniques. Temperature biofeedback is also helpful for migraines and Raynaud’s phenomenon.
There are many relaxation exercises used in biofeedback therapy, such as deep breathing, progressive muscle relaxation, guided imagery, mindfulness meditation.
Biofeedback therapy sessions can be performed in physical therapy clinics, medical centers, and hospitals, and typically last 30 to 60 minutes. Patients may start to see benefits within 10 sessions. During the session, the therapist applies the sensors/electrodes to different parts of the body. When these sensors detect signs of stress respective with their modality, they beep a sound or flash a light. This feedback informs the patient that there is stress or tension, and that is taken as a cue to start the relaxation techniques. The ultimate goal is to eventually be able to produce these responses without the feedback from these devices.
Biofeedback has been shown to be helpful in treating a variety of medical conditions, including chronic pain. By helping the patient identify tight muscles and then learn to relax those muscles, biofeedback may help relieve the discomfort associated with a number of pain conditions, such as low back pain, abdominal pain, temporomandibular joint disorders (TMJ), fibromyalgia, etc. It is suitable to be performed on patients of all ages. Headaches are one of the most common pain medications for biofeedback therapy.