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Biofeedback: Exciting and Empowering Process

Train Your Body to Mind
Biofeedback is useful in treating many disorders, ranging from the reeducation of damaged nerves to certain types of epilepsy, but it is most typically used in treating disorders like TMJ, irritable bowel syndrome, chronic headaches, high blood pressure, generalized stress, anxiety, incontinence and insomnia. Biofeedback is a valuable option, because it is a noninvasive process that can be used to train you how to manage and change troublesome physical symptoms.

Biofeedback involves using electronic instrumentation to monitor specific, often unconscious physiological activities and habit patterns of your body and then "feed back" the information to you. Once you are aware of what your body is doing, you can change those patterns to reduce or eliminate your symptoms. Biofeedback is effective for chronic, benign problems because it reduces long term medication use, the frequency of emergency room visits, physician consultations and it has NO side effects!

If you are a medical or mental health professional, please see our Professional Equipment section.

Please contact us if you need help in choosing the right biofeedback device for your health concern.
FREE ongoing support by phone, email and/or discussion board with every purchase!

Biofeedback Equipment
Uses Devices
High Blood Pressure
RESPeRATE
Generalized Stress
Relaxation
The Journey to Wild Divine
Healing Rhythms
EmWave
Generalized Stress
Relaxation
Hand Warming
Migraine Headache
Raynaud's Syndrome
GSR2
EmWave Personal
TMJ
Chronic headaches
Neck & shoulder pain
Whiplash
Back pain
Muscle re-education
Muscle Monitors
Clenching/Grinding/Bruxing
TMJ
Chronic headaches
Antense Anti-Tension Device
Heart rate variability
Anxiety
Generalized stress
Poor concentration
Peak Performance
emWave PC
EmWave
Incontinence
Educator Pelvic Floor Indicator
Lady Care Vaginal Weights
PFX2 Pelvic Floor Exerciser
PFXa Anal Pelvic Floor Exerciser
U-Control w/Periform Kit
Peritron Perineometer

Until now, you had to meet in the office of a biofeedback therapist to practice with biofeedback equipment.
Now, many types of biofeedback equipment are now so portable and inexpensive they are excellent for home use. They are readily available and you can use them in the privacy of your own home. Ah...but something is still missing.

What do you do with these powerful units when you are not trained in biofeedback?
We are trained biofeedback therapists and counselors with years of experience and we offer FREE support with all our biofeedback instruments. You can buy with confidence knowing you not only have the most advanced biofeedback instruments but access to knowledgeable professionals who can support you every step of the way. What could be better?

Three Levels of the Stress Response
All of the problems above these are either caused by or aggravated by stress. It is useful to understand how stress is involved.

The first type of stress is comprised of external events to which you react. These can be environmental, interpersonal, familial or job related. Such factors need to be eliminated or a means developed to reduce their impact. This type of stress is called the 'stressor'.

The second type is your reaction to the stressor. This is important, because how an event is interpreted determines much of your physiological response. For example, you respond differently to an event you perceive as a threat than to an event you perceive as positive in nature.

The third type of stress is the change in your physiology over time, as your body reacts to the stressor. Your body's initial stress response can become a habit in a relatively short period of time. Unless you are aware that you are forming a stress induced habit and you consciously work to return your physiology to normal, the habit becomes chronic.

How Stress Reactions Become Chronic
Symptoms of physiological tension might not be noticed immediately when a you encounter stress, and if the response is unnoticed, it can form into a dysfunctional habit, gradually, over time. For example, bruxing or clenching your teeth is normal under stress. However, if the stressor persists the bruxing/clenching habit can "take on a life of it's own" so that when the initial stress subsides the bruxing/clenching continues, creating long term problems after the initial stressor has been withdrawn.

In another way, chronic habits that previously were not a problem can become painful. For example, if you are involved in an accident and injure a muscle, the muscle tissue becomes more sensitive. If high levels of tension were previously present and unnoticed, they now contribute to the pain. This often happens with chronic neck and shoulder tension.

For example, a habit develops outside of your awareness, becomes chronic and eventually leads to TMJ problems. In another example, chronic unconscious tension which was not a source of pain before an accident becomes an aggravating factor to injured tissue. In both these examples the tension is outside of your awareness but the pain isn't. You don't realize the source of the pain and don't know how to alter the muscle tension in order to help reduce the pain or you may not be aware that tension can aggravate pain.

Along with the specific tension responses, there are also general stress responses which have an impact. Explaining how the autonomic nervous system functions, including the sympathetic and parasympathetic components will provide some insight. The sympathetic component of the autonomic nervous system acts like an accelerator pedal to gear up the physiology for action or to prepare the body for coping with danger. But it also causes wear and tear if the body stays geared up; organ systems start to fatigue, producing many of the symptoms listed in the above chart. On the other hand, the parasympathetic component acts like a brake pedal, relaxing physiologic processes and returning organ functioning to normal. This allows recovery from the wear and tear on your body that is caused by sympathetic arousal and the stress response. Generalized relaxation training is designed to reduce the stress response and increase the relaxation response.

Monitoring with Electronic Instruments
When you have tense muscles, surface electromyography (sEMG), electrodes can be attached to the skin over the tight muscles. These electrodes monitor the electrical activity of the affected muscle and produce an electronic signal indicating increases or decreases in muscle tension. Changes in the electronic signal are clearly displayed by a tone or on the computer screen. When you are aware of the levels of tension, you can learn how to make changes to lower it.

The jaw and neck muscles are easily affected by stress and are often directly involved in headaches, Temporomandibular joint (TMJ) pain and neck pain. Once the level of chronic tension is known and understood, the goal is to relax tight muscles and see the tension levels return to normal. Behaviors such as grinding your teeth, squinting your eyes or tightening your shoulders increase muscle tension. Learning how to relax your jaw, shoulders and not squinting your eyes results in relaxation.

Your respiration pattern is another good indicator of your general level of stress or relaxation; rapid high chest movement is sympathetically arousing and tension producing while slower abdominal movement is parasympathetically arousing and relaxation producing.

During the process, you begin to understand the need to become relaxed and learn how it feels to be relaxed.

Change Can Feel Uncomfortable
The support we provide is important because achieving a relaxed state can often feel new, different and uncomfortable. You may experience increased pain as the relaxation process begins "stretching" the muscles. Stretching pain is often sharper than the chronically experienced pain. In our online classes and with our expert coaching, we teach you how to distinguish stretching muscle pain from tension pain.This discomfort is normal and temporary. It actually represents a positive development, for as muscle tissue stretches, its capacity to relax increases; blood flow to the muscle and healing ability also increase.

Relaxation Leads to Stretching Pain
The phenomenon of experiencing stretching pain upon relaxing a muscle reinforces of the chronic pain cycle. In trying to avoid the sensation of stretching pain, you can actually increase the tension that is causing your pain. A slight increase in tension will reduce the stretching pain and give momentary relief from the pain caused by stretching, but it contributes to shortening of the muscle fiber and increases the long term pain. Muscle fibers can shorten within just a few days or gradually after an injury because of "bracing" behavior.

Your first experience with biofeedback equipment and reducing muscle tension is usually exciting and empowering. You may have previously associated a sense of control with behaviors such as tightening, guarding and bracing, but real body control involves letting go and relaxing.

Effectiveness of Biofeedback
Biofeedback is extremely effective for significantly reducing both the frequency and severity of the majority of tension and migraine headaches. Tension and post-accident neck pain symptoms can also be significantly reduced by using sEMG.

If you suffer from chronic anxiety and panic attacks, you can reduce your symptoms with the use of the GSR2 or emWave PC but you may need to pursue further counseling to obtain permanent relief by dealing with your deeper emotional issues.

Irritable bowel syndrome sufferers are often able to prevent most of their "attacks" through relaxation and learning the particular type of abdominal breathing we teach. Hypertension sufferers can also benefit from slow deep abdominal breathing.

Biofeedback can be helpful for low back pain when the back muscles are tense, but tension is only one factor producing pain and you need to pursue posture and strengthening exercises as well.

Incontinence can have several sources, nerve injury from surgery or weak sphincter muscles. Biofeedback is helpful in both cases to educate and reinforce the proper functioning of the sphincter muscles.

Conclusion
During biofeedback training, you gain understanding of your stressors, your interpretation of the stressors and your physiological response patterns. You learn how to change your physiological responses from abnormal to normal, how to recognize tension responses and how to eliminate symptoms. You will come to realize the importance of daily practice. If your dysfunctional patterns and symptoms recur, you will have the knowledge needed to regain control. Biofeedback does take time and attention, but the skills acquired are well worth the effort.

Author: Thomas Cobb

   
 
Articles and content contained in LifeMatters are educational in nature and not intended for and should not be interpreted as medical advice or psychotherapy.