One of the most helpful tools that I found in my journey was biofeedback, a method of learning how to control certain autonomic functions in your body. I believe it helps in resetting and balancing your body systems. And personally I feel that it played an integral part in taking me to healthier place and to living a healthy life.
You probably have heard about Biofeedback Therapy. And may even have an idea of how this form of therapy helps improve your health. But before I tell you more about this technique, I have to tell you how much I truly believe that without it I would not have made the strides in my health that I have made so far.
Using this technique daily as part of my holistic health care strategy has helped me to reset my Autonomic Nervous system and to start regaining control of my life.
What is Biofeedback Therapy
In simple terms it is a technique used to improve your health by learning to control certain internal bodily processes that normally occur involuntarily, such as heart rate, blood pressure, muscle tension, and skin temperature. These are referred to as the autonomic or involuntary functions of the body.
When using the Biofeedback method, the activities of the Autonomic Nervous System are measured with electrodes. They are then displayed on a computer monitor allowing you to see how certain actions such as laughter, stress and even love can affect your body systems. The monitor provides you with feedback giving you a better understanding of the workings of your body. And once you begin to understand the information you can start to gain control over these "involuntary" activities.
I was first introduced to Biofeedback Therapy when I was a child.
I started having severe migraine headaches when I was about six years old. My mother had always been open to looking into alternative methods of healing and had a strong belief that we had the power to heal ourselves. After visiting my general physician and getting a clean bill of health she suggested Biofeedback.
Back then Biofeedback was very limited. They placed electrodes all over your head and on your fingers and you lay in a chair for an hour trying to relax while this loud piercing sound was blasting in your ears. The goal was to control the noise so that the more relaxed you were the quieter the noise would get until you eventually made it stop. This was achieved by slowing down my heart rate, relaxing my muscles and maintaining my body temperature. Basically by putting my body and mind in a state of total relaxation. It took a while but I finally got to the point that I could make the noise stop a few minutes after I lay down. I was able to successfully control my migraines by using this technique.
Thankfully technology has taken Biofeedback to a whole new level.
Computers have allowed for the development of visually interactive programs that are almost like a video game. Using the biofeedback game you travel, experience great journeys and practice relaxation techniques along the way. With this program you re-train or as I believe reset your Autonomic System through challenges and validating experiences. For example by lowering your heart rate, while connected to the electrodes you can literally make a ball, on your computer monitor gently rise up to the sky or by both increasing and decreasing your heart rate you take aim with a bow and arrow and hit a target. It is truly an amazing experience.
The three most commonly used forms of Biofeedback Therapy are:
And there are many different Biofeedback programs on the market today. Some are portable so you can use them anywhere and others you need to be on a computer with the electrodes hooked to your USB port.
I personally use a program called The Journey to Wild Divine that integrates the power of a healing journey with innovative human-computer technology to help you cultivate an enhanced sense of self, soul awareness and ultimate health. It is a highly advanced, stimulating and interactive program that I find not only helpful but enjoyable. Deepak Chopra, MD, who worked in conjunction with the creators of this program says "The Journey to Wild Divine allows people to influence what is happening in their body, in their mind, and in the world they create everyday."
I would also recommend the HeartMath Institute.
The Freeze-Framers heart rhythm monitor was developed to help people recover more quickly from health challenges as well as prevent, manage and reverse the negative effects of stress. Basically the Institute says "The program teaches you how to get your head and heart in sync." Christiane Northrup, MD says "Nearly every disease or illness I've seen or treated in two decades of my medical practice could have been improved or even cured had my patients or I known how to access the physical power of our heart's intelligence. HeartMath is the owner's manual we've been waiting for to help us recognize and use our heart's energy to help heal our bodies and our lives."
If you choose you can also use a qualified Biofeedback therapist.
If you decide to use a practitioner, your therapy sessions will vary based on the disorder or disease you are dealing with. A person with a non-neurological problem may be seen an average of six to eight treatment sessions over a three month period. Generally your sessions would be scheduled weekly and decrease in frequency as you improve.
But the real work happens at home. If you do not practice what you have learned daily, like anything else you are not likely to see improvement. It is important to take what is learned in therapy sessions and practice, practice, practice. Repetition of the learned techniques and patterns are absolutely critical to successful Biofeedback Therapy regardless of which method is applied.
The amount of research available supporting the use of Biofeedback Therapy is quite overwhelming. I am a little surprised that it has yet to make its way into mainstream medicine. Studies are showing this therapy to be effective for a wide range of disorders. "For example, Biofeedback shows considerable promise for the treatment of urinary incontinence, which affects over 15 million Americans. Many people prefer this technique over medicine because of the lack of side effects. One early study found that Biofeedback improves bladder function and reduces symptoms of urinary incontinence by up to 94 percent."
Other research has shown Biofeedback to ease the symptoms of Raynaud's disease and to reduce pain, morning stiffness, and the number of tender points in people with Fibromyalgia. Studies have even shown it to help people who suffer from insomnia fall asleep. It has also been shown to improve behavior in children with attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). It seems there is no end to what ailments Biofeedback can help.
Biofeedback may also be useful for the following health problems:
sexual disorders, including pain with intercourse
spinal cord injuries
Ultimately whether you are dealing with the stress of daily life or living with a chronic illness, Biofeedback therapy is a great asset to anybody's healthy living plan.
AHCPR. Clinical Practice Guideline Number 2: Urinary incontinence in adults: acute and chronic management. Rockville, MD: Agency for Health Care Policy and Research, US Dept of Health and Human Services; 1996. AHCPR publication 96-0682.
Integration of behavioral and relaxation approaches into the treatment of chronic pain and insomnia. NIH Technology Assessment Panel on Integration of Behavioral and Relaxation Approaches into the Treatment of Chronic Pain and Insomnia. JAMA. 1996;276(4):313-318.
Reynaud's Treatment Study Investigators. Comparison of sustained-release nifedipine and temperature for treatment of primary Raynaud phenomenon. Results from a randomized clinical trial with 1-year follow-up. Arch Intern Med. 2000;160(8):1101-1108.
Michelle Toole is an entrepreneur and the founder of healthy-holistic-living.com A site that reflects upon her experience living with a chronic illness and her personal journey to health. She shares the tools and techniques she used to gain spiritual, physical and mental holistic health. The site includes tips on building a healthy home, developing a healthy living strategy, alternative medicine, how to manage a chronic illness, how to get disability as well as various articles and links devoted to the topic of holistic health.