Biofeedback or biofeedback training is an alternative medicine method where you learn to control functions of your body with your mind. For example, one such function that you may learn to control is your heart rate.
According to David Barlow and Vincent Mark Durand, authors of the 2009 book Abnormal psychology: an integrative approach, a more formal definition of biofeedback is “the process of gaining greater awareness of many physiological functions primarily using instruments that provide information on the activity of those same systems, with a goal of being able to manipulate them at will.”
During the biofeedback process, or training, you’re connected to a series of electrical sensor devices that will receive feedback and measure information about your physical body. These sensors can help you develop methods of making small yet significant changes in your body to achieve the results you want. Some of the small changes can be learning how to relax specific muscles and how to reduce pain.
Biofeedback basically means using your thoughts to control certain aspects of your body. It is usually used as a way to induce a state of relaxation.
Biofeedback can be used to treat a variety of health issues including anxiety, asthma, chemotherapy side effects, heart problems, high blood pressure, incontinence, irritable bowel syndrome, pain, and Reynaud’s disease. Biofeedback is also used by athletes to improve physical performance.
There are many reasons why people who suffer from chronic pain turn to biofeedback training; sufferers of lower back pain who are looking for effective pain relief may want to consider it because:
- It might work when medications such as painkillers haven’t or when medications cause too many harmful side effects
- It might work when consumption of painkillers is impossible or dangerous due to pregnancy
- It could reduce the need for potentially additive opioid medications
- It is totally non-invasive and no pills are required to do the training
- It allows people to take an active role in their health and feel a certain level of control which is impossible with prescribed pain medication, which is usually passively taken.
- It is usually very safe
During a session, sensors will be put on several parts of your body and will monitor and measure such things as brain waves, heart rate, muscle tension and surface temperature of your skin. You’ll receive the information via sounds or other cues such as a flashing light. This feedback you get will make you change your thoughts and in turn, your focused thoughts can help you make the necessary physical changes to, for example, calm your heart rate or relax a certain muscle.
When it comes to pain relief, biofeedback is effective in that it can help pinpoint the muscles that are tense; you can focus on relaxing them and eventually this can alleviate some or all of the pain associated with the lower back. A goal of biofeedback training and therapy is for the patient to learn how to perform the mind-body technique at home.
As with any alternative treatment for chronic or acute pain, before starting a program or therapy session, talk to your doctor to ensure that you find a treatment and practitioner that are right for you.