Biofeedback therapy is a technique which helps you to control your stress and anxiety by learning to use and control signals from your body. It can also be used to help control pain. A biofeedback machine of some kind is generally used. This can be an everyday sort of machine which gives you information about your body such as a thermometer or a blood pressure machine, or it can be a specific biofeedback machine or computer programme. The information, feedback, the machine gives you about what is happening in your body allows you to take action to change the feedback so that you feel better.
Biofeedback therapy machines can identify your levels of anxiety and stress and the effects they are having on you with greater sensitivity and accuracy than you or a therapist can. When you are “wired up” to a biofeedback machine it provides continuous information in the form of noise, graphs or pictures about the activity going on inside your body.
There are several different types of biofeedback therapy machine, some of which you can buy and use at home without a therapist’s help. Others are more complicated and you would need to see a therapist who knows about biofeedback to use the machine and interpret what it is telling you. Listed below are the different types of biofeedback machine available.
Electromyogram (EMG) measures muscle tension. Sensors are placed on your skin over muscles that tend to hold a lot of tension when you are stressed. These include the muscle in the middle of your forehead, the jaw muscle and the muscles on the back of your shoulders. When the sensors pick up tension in your muscles, the machine will let you know what it is receiving through a noise or some other signal. Using this feedback, you learn to focus on the tension in your muscles and begin to find out what thoughts, feelings and actions change the signal to one that shows you are more relaxed. As you become familiar with what is going on in your internal world, you will become more aware of when you are getting stressed and you will be able to use the techniques you have learned through using the biofeedback machine to reduce tension and relieve stress in your everyday life.
EMG had been used effectively for tension headaches, backache, neck pain, and teeth grinding. It can also help with conditions made worse by stress such as asthma, irritable bowel syndrome and ulcers.
Temperature Biofeedback monitors what is happening inside your body by using the temperature of your skin rather than the tension in your muscles. This makes it a useful tool in learning to relieve circulatory problems such as Reynauds syndrome (cold and numb extremities). Sensors can be to fingers or toes and they give you feedback on the temperature of your skin and help you to learn to warm them up by increasing the blood flow to your hands and feet. Normally, you would not consider that your blood flow is under your conscious control but temperature biofeedback allows you to make unconscious processes conscious so that you can learn to control them. This kind of feedback is useful in managing stress and anxiety because when you are stressed or anxious, the tension causes blood to leave the surface of your skin and move into internal organs, which lowers the temperature of your skin. Learning to increase the temperature of your skin by increasing the blood flow in your hands and feet will automatically reduce your feelings of anxiety and relax your muscles.
Galvanic skin response (GSH) or Electrodermal Response (EDR) measures the amount that you sweat by monitoring changes in your sweat glands. It does this using the markers of water and salt in your sweat. When you are stressed your sweat glands become more active and you sweat more. I am sure you have noticed that when you are nervous about something you are more likely to sweat. The more water and salt there is on your skin the more your skin is able to conduct electricity because water, and especially salty water, is a good conductor of electricity,
A GSH machine is able to measure the conductivity of your skin, send out a signal either as sound or light and thus give a clear idea of how stressed you are. The machine has sensors that are usually attached to your fingertips and it helps you to learn to monitor your stress levels and become more relaxed.
The above three types of biofeedback therapy machines are all effective. In my experience, it is best to go for a machine that makes a noise rather than giving a light signal. It is easier to use a machine like this for relaxation because then you can close your eyes and really get in tune with what is going on in your body and still be receiving the machine’s response. When you are really stressed the noise will be loud and as you relax it will become softer until it disappears altogether. As you use the machine you will quickly learn what to do to make the sound softer and eventually stop. Once you can do this using the machine, you can then take what you have learned and use it in your everyday life to keep your stress levels low.
Most GSH machines allow you to increase the sensitivity of the sensors so that, once you have learned to get rid of the noise on a high setting, you can then decrease the setting and learn how to relax even more to get the noise to go away.
Interestingly, this process can be used to help people learn how to control pain as well. By learning to warm a part of your body, such as your hands, you can use this process to draw pain away from the area where the paid is in your body.
Biofeedback Therapy at Home
Although it can be helpful to go to a trained biofeedback practitioner to learn how to use biofeedback therapy for stress reduction, you can also buy machines and computer programs fairly cheaply which can be used very effectively at home.
Two computer software programs that use biofeedback to teach you to control your emotions and stress levels are available from The Wild Divine These programs are called Journey to the Wild Divine and Healng Rhythms. These are both fun programs to use and will have you and your kids returning to them again and again. You will find, after using them for a while that they have very positive effects on your emotional and physical well-being.
If you would like to try a machine you can obtain a variety of biofeedback therapy machines from the following websites:
To be honest there are not a lot of books available which I would recommend as an easy read on Biofeedback therapy and stress. However, if you would like to read more general information about biofeedback, go to www.Amazon.com and do a search for "biofeedback" and see what comes up.