Biofeedback is a method of seeing and understanding events happening in our bodies. A simple biofeedback device is the thermometer, which tell you whether or not you have a fever. Another biofeedback device is the bathroom scale, which helps us monitor or weight. Both of these devices ‘feed back’ to us specific information about the state of our body. With this information, we can choose to begin to ‘self-regulate’ and bring our body back to what may be a more healthful condition (e.g., takes steps to lose weight).
Biofeedback as a treatment method, has been around since the 60’s and is currently an important part of health care in progressive areas of North America and a number of foreign countries. With powerful computers and sophisticated software, Biofeedback is effectively used not only to determine abnormalities in bodily functioning, but to correct these conditions.
Several types of Biofeedback training used in the treatment of clinical conditions, as well as for well being and optimal functioning are:
Heart Rate Training
By learning how to control muscle tension with Biofeedback, one can reach deep levels of relaxation, significantly reduce anxious feelings, and decrease or eliminate symptoms associated with muscle tension, such as Headaches.
It has been estimated that up to 80% of the population has a poor breathing pattern, with consequent negative impacts on health. Even subtle increases in breathing rates can lead to Hyperventilation Syndrome, having a wide range of physical and psychological symptoms, including anxiety, panic attacks, attention and concentration deficits, respiratory, cardiac, neurological, and GI symptoms. In its chronic form, Hyperventilation Syndrome can occur without clinically obvious over breathing by the individual, and is only effectively diagnosed with specialized equipment. It has also been found that Athletes often have less than optimal breathing patterns, with the consequence of compromised performance. With the assistance of Biofeedback technology, one can learn to regulate one’s breathing to a more healthful and effective pattern.
Heart Rate Training
Research has shown that the degree of ‘speed-up’ and ‘slow-down’ of the heart - known as Heart Rate Variability (HRV) has profound implications for health and well being. It has been shown that HRV can be modified through Biofeedback training. A number of medical and psychological conditions are now being treated by HRV training, including anxiety, excessive anger, cardiac condition, asthma, irritable bowel syndrome, chronic pain, chronic fatigue syndrome, and , chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder (COPD).
A useful article on Heart Rate Variability may be found at: http://www.bfe.org/articles/hrv.pdf
Another article on HRV by this author (Dr. MacLean), and its implications for emotional functioning was published in the scientific journal Biofeedback, winter, 2004. Please refer to the ‘Media and Articles’ section of this website to view this article.
One can learn to control peripheral body temperature with Biofeedback. By learning this simple skill, one can reduce or eliminate stress related disorders, such as anxiety, high blood pressure, migraine headaches, and digestive symptoms, as well as treat circulatory problems such as Raynaud’s Syndrome.