This is how biofeedback works

The question of whether alternative therapies and treatments really help or only cost money is in many cases not easy to answer. A positive exception is the so-called biofeedback, in which physical, psychosomatic and mental illnesses can be treated by the systematic feedback of bodily functions.

Biofeedback: Therapy no hocus-pocus

A simple biofeedback mechanism can be found in our earliest childhood: You can easily and painfully burn yourself on hot candles and matches - if that happens, you can keep your hands off it. Of course it is not that easy in practice.

According to the German Society for Biofeedback, "Biofeedback [...] is a scientifically sound method of behavior therapy and behavioral medicine, with the help of which normally unconscious psychophysiological processes are made perceptible by feedback."

For this purpose, unconscious body functions such as respiratory rate, heart rate, blood pressure, skin resistance, body temperature and muscle tension are measured with sensors on the skin and made visible either with image signals or audible via audible signals. The patient can thus immediately see or hear how his body reacts.

Biofeedback: recognition and learning

Through biofeedback, the patient can see that even the smallest mental changes have an effect on his body. In the course of treatment, he learns to consciously and deliberately influence bodily processes and can thus promote his healing without side effects or pain. For example, when measuring muscle tension, the measurement results can be displayed as a graph on the screen. If the muscle tension changes, so does the curve.

The patient thus receives a direct feedback (feedback) about the change in muscle tension. Biofeedback treatment is usually always linked to a behavioral therapy or other form of therapy and is not considered to be exclusive treatment.

Biofeedback is used to treat:

  • Stress, stress, and stress management
  • Chronic pain such as headache, back pain, fibromyalgia
  • Hypertension, circulatory disorders
  • Tinnitus, irritable stomach, irritable bowel
  • Sleep disorders, sexual disorders
  • Urinary and fecal incontinence, urinary retention
  • Hyperactivity, attention disorders
  • Epileptic disorders
  • Anxiety disorders, depression
  • Posttraumatic stress disorder
  • Prevention of chronic diseases
  • Improvement of body awareness
  • Mental causes / psychological consequences of physical illnesses

Biofeedback for health reform?

Especially for chronic diseases, biofeedback could play an increasingly important role. As the patient's involvement in the healing process continues to take center stage, biofeedback could play a significant role in the treatment concepts of the chronically ill, which are currently being tested many times.

However, the procedure is not suitable for every patient. Motivation and collaboration with the therapist, for example, are a prerequisite for successful treatment. As a rule, the patient benefits from the fact that the motivation during the therapy sets by fast success experiences - after all, the feedback of the body is immediate and always completely direct.

The method seems to work especially well in children with tension-type headaches and attention deficits. Specially developed computer animations with cartoon characters support the learning process. The treatment is not limited to the sessions in the practice of the therapist: the learned exercises must continue to be practiced at home.

Biofeedback: Training for pelvic floor

In many diseases, the treatment successes are large - and scientifically proven. For example, in the case of faecal and urinary incontinence, the pelvic floor and sphincter can be well trained via feedback from the biofeedback sensors.

Even patients with tension-type headache can quickly learn to relieve their tension. This also applies to patients whose headaches stem from malformed jaw. Teeth grinding and problems in the jaw can be eliminated with a combination of relaxation therapy and biofeedback.

As positive as the success may be, whether and to what extent the treatment is taken over by the health insurance company, should be clarified in individual cases. In some cases, the therapy is only paid by the health insurance if it is specifically involved in a behavioral therapy.

Biofeedback: find therapists

There is great interest in biofeedback - but there are currently relatively few therapists. The German Society Biofeedback eV offers a training as a biofeedback therapist. Prerequisite for this is the license to practice as a doctor or psychologist.

Other health professionals such as physiotherapists, physiotherapists, nurses and nurses, occupational therapists, sports scientists, speech therapists or alternative practitioners can be trained to become biofeedback trainers. In justified exceptional cases, the training committee may also authorize persons with other professional qualifications.

Treat with biofeedback migraine

For the first time, the German Migraine and Headache Society (DMKG) has confirmed its effectiveness in its guidelines for the treatment of migraine in biofeedback therapy as well as in drug therapy. Particularly for patients suffering from frequent migraine attacks, the medical association recommends biofeedback therapy.

At the presentation of the new guidelines for the treatment of migraine, the professional society emphasized that prevention and prevention are of central importance in the treatment. This applies in particular to patients who frequently suffer from migraine: People who have to endure migraine attacks more than three times a month, or whose attacks last longer than 72 hours or who respond poorly to a drug-based acute therapy, can use preventive measures to show the frequency of attacks of pain reduce. Behavioral strategies such as biofeedback are recommended for such patients.

The efficacy, emphasized the DMKG was just as high as with a drug therapy. This could be proven by various studies. Migraine is an episodic, periodic, predominantly unilateral headache that is often associated with nausea and vomiting.

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