While you have control of a large portion of your body and it’s movements, there are a few things that you don’t control, like your heart rate, temperature or your blood pressure. Those are all controlled by your central nervous system.
Biofeedback is a technique that physical therapists are using to help you gain more control over these typically involuntary bodily functions. It’s used often to treat conditions like migraines, chronic pain, incontinence and even high blood pressure. By harnessing the power of your minds, you start to become more aware of what is going on inside of you and allow yourself to gain more control over your health.
How Does Biofeedback Therapy Work?
Biofeedback is still a bit of a mystery. Researchers aren’t entirely sure why or how it works. All they do know is that it promotes relaxation, which relieves quite a few conditions that are caused by stress.
During a session, a physical therapist attached electrodes to your skin and a finger sensor to your hand. The electrodes send signals and displays a sound, flash or image that is suppose to represent your heart and breathing rate, blood pressure, sweating, muscle activity, and body temperature.
When you’re dealing with stress, those are the functions that change. Your heart rate increases, your muscles get tense and you blood pressure rises. You can see the bodies response to stress and get immediate feedback on how you can try to stop it. Most biofeedback is conducted in a physical therapist’s office, but computer programs are popping up that connect the biofeedback sensor right to your own computer.
The therapist will help you practice exercises for relaxation to help you fine-tune and control different bodily functions. Several different relaxation exercises include:
- Deep breathing
- Progressive muscle relaxation — alternately tightening and then relaxing different muscles
- Guided imagery — concentrating on an image to focus your mind and make you feel more relaxed
- Mindful meditation — focusing your thoughts and letting go of negative things