Ascent Medical Consultants - Biofeedback

When you reach for the door to open it or raise your leg to put your shoe on, you can control these movements and speed up or slow down the movement as you wish.  Other body actions like heart rate, breathing rate, electrical activity of muscles, skin temperature, and changing brain activity are controlled involuntarily. You don’t have to think about increasing your heart rate as you run, activate specific shoulder blade muscles, or when you swing your arms.  Your muscles, brain activity, and heart rate adjust automatically, but sometimes can get into abnormal states in response to injury or when you are nervous, frustrated, or in pain.  One technique that can help you gain more awareness and control over your muscles, brain, heart rate, and stress level is biofeedback.

Sensors help you receive the information about your heart, muscles, brain etc. and are displayed on the computer screen. This feedback helps you learn specific techniques to make subtle but powerful changes to calm muscles, to calm the brain, to increase blood supply to body parts, and to help the body remember how it moved or operated before injury and pain.

Your therapist might use several different biofeedback methods. Determining the method that’s right for you depends on your health problems and goals. Biofeedback methods include:

  • Breathing. During respiratory biofeedback, sensors measure your oxygen and carbon dioxide produced in relationship to your heart rate changes during the breathing cycle. You can use this information to calm your nervous system, optimize oxygen circulation in your body, and effect chemicals released.
  • Heart rate. This type of biofeedback uses finger or earlobe sensors with a device called a photoplethysmograph to measure your heart rate and heart rate variability and is used with the breathing techniques mentioned above.
  • Muscle. This method of biofeedback involves placing sensors over your skeletal muscles to monitor the electrical activity that causes muscle contraction and movement. You can learn how to move in more efficient and pain free ways. Pain and stress cause an increase in electrical activity that you can’t detect, but with the activity displayed on the computer screen, you can learn to decrease this and improve healing and decrease pain.
  • Sweat glands. Sensors attached around your fingers to an  electrodermograph (EDG) measure the activity of your sweat glands and the amount of perspiration on your skin, alerting you to anxiety and pain. Techniques that lower this can help decrease feelings of pain and anxiety.
  • Temperature. Sensors attached to your fingers or feet measure the blood flow to your skin. You can use this information to learn techniques that increase or decrease your blood flow to an area.
  • Brainwave. This type of method uses scalp sensors to measure your EEG and inform you about emotional and cognitive states.