Biofeedback

Practitioner: Dr Steven Hawkins

Biofeedback is a technique to help one gain awareness of one’s biological activity to improve performance.

We learn about your biological activity by measuring your:

  • Respiration rate
  • Heart rate
  • Skin conductance
  • Skin temperature
  • Muscle tension
  • Brain waves (EEG)

Biofeedback has been used widely to help people improve a number of conditions made worse by stress.

For more information, please refer to:

The Association of Applied Psychophysiology and Biofeedback

or

Biofeedback Certified International Alliance – Australia for more information.

It is non-invasive, and carries no significant risks or cause undesirable side effects.

Biofeedback has been used in the field of peak performance, with the aim of improving mental functioning and stability. This approach has been adopted by some high level sports people such as members of AC Milan and freestyle skier Kyle Nissen for example.

Some other examples of the application of biofeedback in peak performance can be found here:

Thought Technology

and here:

NASA and type Biofeedback into the search field.

Electromyogram (EMG) – This measures muscle activity and tension. It may be used for back pain, headaches, anxiety disorders, muscle retraining after injury, and incontinence.

Thermal  This measures skin temperature. It may be used for headache and Raynaud’s disease.

Electrodermal activity (EDA)  This measures sweating and can be used for pain and anxiety.

Heart rate variability (HRV) – This measures heart rate. It may be used for anxiety, asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), and irregular heartbeat.

The goal of biofeedback is to promote relaxation.

During a biofeedback session, sensors are attached to your skin. Finger sensors can also be used. These electrodes/sensors send signals to a monitor, which displays a sound, flash of light, or image that represents your heart and breathing rate, blood pressure, skin temperature, sweating, or muscle activity.

When you are under stress, these functions change. Your heart rate speeds up, your muscles tighten, your blood pressure rises, you start to sweat, and your breathing quickens. You can see these stress responses on the monitor as they happen.

Biofeedback aims to teach you how to fine-tune the control of these different body functions. For example, you might use a relaxation technique to turn down the brainwaves that activate a stress response.

As your heart rate slows down – your blood pressure becomes lower, muscle tension starts easing, and you will get instant visual feedback on the screen. Eventually, you’ll learn how to control these functions on your own, without relying on biofeedback equipment.

Several different relaxation exercises can be used during a biofeedback therapy session, including:

  • Diaphragmatic breathing
  • Progressive muscle relaxation — alternately tightening and then relaxing different muscle groups
  • Guided imagery — concentrating on a specific image (such as the color and texture of an orange) to focus your mind and make you feel more relaxed
  • Mindfulness meditation — focusing your thoughts and letting go of negative emotions

Biofeedback sessions are typically done in a therapist’s office, but there are also computer programs available that connect the biofeedback sensor to your own computer.

Biofeedback therapy sessions last between 15 and 30 minutes. Usually, you can start to see biofeedback benefits within 10 sessions or less. As every person is different, I suggest a discussion to determine whether this approach may be helpful in addressing your health goals.

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