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Ask the Biofeedback Expert
Change Your Stress Response with Biofeedback

As counselors who are also biofeedback therapists, we are experts in working with people to change problematic physical symptoms which often develop in response to stressful events. Biofeedback is an outstanding way to change any behaviors which are responsible for these physical symptoms such as pain and anxiety. Having had great success teaching people how to correct chronic stress related conditions in our private practices, we are making that same technology available to you online. Changing your behavior is never easy but with support you can move from understanding why something is happening to actually taking the right action that will make a difference.

What is Biofeedback
Biofeedback is a system based on monitoring biological signals produced by the body.

Electronic instrumentation monitors the body's physiology and displays the monitored information back to the person whose body is being monitored; hence the name bio-logical signal feed-back. This process increases your awareness of physiological activity in various parts of your body and in various organ systems. This new awareness, made possible by the monitoring instruments, allows you to change your body's functioning.

How Does It Work
Biofeedback instruments can monitor the part of the body that responds to stress (the autonomic nervous system) or how a specific part of the body(such as tight muscles) is functioning. We know physiologically that it is best if the body returns to a relaxed state frequently; so if the the body remains "revved up" for a long period of time, without returning to rest, a breakdown is more likely. This breakdown can result in painful symptoms or some chronic functional problems. Biofeedback is a method of teaching you how to regain control of your body's functioning in order to establish normalcy and eliminate symptoms. Below we describe different situations and some of the biofeedback units that can be used with positive effect.

Generalized Stress
If you have generalized stress, learning to use a strategy that accesses the relaxation response for the entire body is the most appropriate. Several biofeedback instruments are designed to access the general relaxation response, the GSR2, EDA emWave Pro, and Resperate. The emWave Personal Stress Reliever is a portable handheld device which use stress relief technology to help you balance your emotions, mind and body. Another enjoyable way to start relieving stress is by using a biofeedback game; The Journey to Wild Divine and Healing Rhythms.

Daily relaxation is excellent for preventing the build up of generalized stress, promoting an inner sense of well-being and centeredness. If you are interested in using a biofeedback device to promote the daily practice of relaxation the GSR2, EDA, emWave Pro, and Resperate would be good choices. The emWave Personal Stress Reliever is a portable handheld device which use stress relief technology to help you balance your emotions, mind and body. If you like the idea of being in a game environment The Journey to Wild Divine Biofeedback Game might be your pick.

Hand Warming
Cold hands can be a result of body tension and a stress. Learning how to warm the hands has been shown to be effective for migraine headaches, Raynaud's Syndrome and hypertension. The GSR2/Temp biofeedback unit measures the temperature of the of the hand from a thermister on a finger as well as the GSR (Galvanic Skin Response).

Migraine Headache
While medical science has not yet determined the exact cause of migraine headache, research has shown that learning how to warm your hands has a positive effect and can be used to reduce the severity of a migraine headache. Reducing tension in the muscles of the jaw and neck also helps to reduce some of the triggers of migraine headaches. The GSR2/Temp biofeedback unit is useful for learning how to warm your hands and our online Natural Headache Relief Program teaches you how to reduce muscular triggers for migraine and chronic headaches.

High Blood Pressure
The leading cause of stroke, heart attack and congestive heart failure, high blood pressure is often referred to as 'The Silent Killer'. RESPeRATE is the only FDA cleared, non-drug, medical device clinically proven to significantly lower your high blood pressure with no side effects.

Raynaud's Syndrome
If you are someone with Raynaud's syndrome, you experience abnormally cold hands which can be uncomfortable and even interfere with your life in significant ways. Learning how to warm your hands has been shown to positively affect Raynaud's Syndrome. The GSR2/Temp biofeedback unit is useful for this purpose.

Temporomandibular Joint Dysfunction can be painful and can affect the functioning of your jaw joint. Bruxing or jaw clenching is a major culprit to developing TMJ. Being able to relax the muscles of your jaw and neck will help you to stop bruxing. Our online class, Stop Bruxing Now, teaches you how to stop bruxing during the day which can also minimize night time bruxing.

Chronic headaches
Chronic migraine, muscle contraction headaches or a combination of the two have triggers which can initiate them. Reducing headache triggers is the goal of our Natural Headache Relief Program. Learning how to warm the hands with the GSR2/Temp has also been shown to be useful in reducing the triggers that cause migraine headaches.

Neck & shoulder pain
Neck and shoulder pain can be caused or aggravated by muscle tension. When a muscle is injured from a traumatic event, muscle tension increases the pain and retards the healing process. The MyoTrac muscle monitor can help train muscles to be less tense.

Whiplash occurs when the neck muscles become torn or strained due to sudden uncontrollable movement of the head and neck during accidents. Muscle tension can aggravate the pain from whiplash and retard healing. Relaxing the muscles of the neck can be helpful in recovery from whiplash. The MyoTrac muscle monitor is useful in helping to reduce muscle tension.

Back pain
Back pain can have many causes. Muscle tension can aggravate back pain. Learning how to relax the muscles of the back can be helpful in reducing one of the factors contributing to back pain.

Muscle re-education
Muscles and nerves can be injured in several ways, accidents being the most common. Muscle monitors can help retrain damaged and injured muscles and help injured muscles and nerves work together. The MyoTrac family of muscle monitors is often used by professionals and patients to re-educate muscles.

Clenching and bruxing of the teeth has been implicated in chronic headaches and TMJ (Temporomandibular Joint Dysfunction). Learning how to stop bruxing is important for recovery. Our online class, Stop Bruxing Now, teaches you how to stop bruxing during the day which can also minimize night time clenching.

Heart rate variability
Working with Heart Rate Variability to achieve a good relaxation response is quite rewarding. By monitoring the pulse rate the degree to which the heart is synchronized and controlled by the relaxation response can be calculated and played back to improve the relaxation response, The emWave Pro Stress Relief System can help mental focus and relaxation ability. The emWave Personal Stress Reliever is a portable handheld device that allow you to monitor and shift your focus from tense to relaxed anytime, anywhere.

For those people experiencing the benign but bothersome clinical conditions of Premature Ventricular Contractions and Mitral Valve Prolapse these devices can help reduce symptoms by increasing the relaxation response and the coordination of the heart beat with the parasympathetic nervous system.

Anxiety with panic attacks can be extremely uncomfortable and often debilitating. While psychotherapy is often important in the treatment of anxiety, learning how to relax well is often important in the long term management of anxiety. The GSR2, EDA, or emWave Pro Stress Relief System help promote the general relaxation response. The emWave Personal Stress Reliever is a portable handheld device which use stress relief technology to help you balance your emotions, mind and body.

Poor concentration
Concentration can be improved by learning how to focus attention and by reducing anxiety and learning how to relax. The emWave Pro has been useful in learning how to focus attention and reduce feelings of anxiety.

Peak Performance
Learning how to focus attention and concentration and reduce stress and anxiety has improved performance. The emWave Pro is useful to improve peak performance.

Incontinence can be improved by strengthening and improving the functioning of the pelvic floor muscles. We have biofeedback devices that can be used to help you know that you are doing your Kegel exercises correctly and devices that provide resistance training to strengthen the pelvic floor muscles.

The Paradox of Control
The whole idea of using biofeedback to "take control" of your body's functioning seems paradoxical at first. "Taking control" in this case means to learn how to relax and "let go". We have learned that many of these stress related problems are best treated through relaxation, letting the body return to normal functioning. Tension or over activity has created the symptom. This over activity often originally began as a response to external pressures, crises or stress. These responses then became "normal" for the body, or the body became accustomed to a higher than normal degree of tension or over activity. This over activity then becomes a habit and continues, becoming chronic. Further, these tense habits are now outside of awareness. Though the tension is outside awareness, symptoms such as headaches are not. The symptoms then add to the stress a person experiences which increases the tension which increases the symptoms.

Biofeedback intervenes in this cycle by teaching a person how to relax, return the body's physiological activity back to normal and thereby decreasing or ending the symptoms.

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