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What is biofeedback?

Biofeedback is a method to visualize the physiological processes which are taking place ‘inside’ the body, triggered by the nervous system. A special electronic measuring device, such as a NeXus biofeedback system, is connected to the body which measures parameters such as heart rate, blood volume pulse and respiration. By using these physiological signals as feedback under the guidance of a trained professional clinician, people learn to improve their health and their performance. It has been scientifically ascertained that many conditions can be treated successfully by applying biofeedback, thus reducing the intake of medication.

Train health and performance with biofeedback

When applied by a qualified clinician, biofeedback can be a very effective method to treat modern diseases which are mainly caused by lifestyle and stress. It is well known that chronic stress has a negative impact on the functioning of the nervous system, as well as on the immune and cardiovascular system.

Chronic stress can cause health problems over time, and many people still turn to medication to deal with these problems. In this case however, drugs only suppress the symptoms, but don’t deal with the origin of the disease: stress is caused by behavior, and therefore changing the behavior is the real answer.

Biofeedback focuses on improving health and performance, rather than treating a disease. For instance, in the case of chronic tension headache, a major and common form of headache, it makes sense to enable the sufferer to make the headache go away by reducing stress and tension, instead of taking pain killers that only takes away the pain. This is what biofeedback can do.

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Biofeedback applications

The following list of health problems are examples of conditions in which stress or psycho-somatic factors can play a significant part:

  • Chronic tension headaches
  • Migraine
  • Anxiety disorders and hyperventilation
  • Burnout / stress problems
  • Essential hypertension
  • Palpitations, arrhythmia
  • ADHD and learning disabilities
  • RSI

Furthermore, biofeedback can be effective in neuromuscular rehabilitation, pelvic floor and incontinence training, and to treat various other applications.

Biofeedback: A non-pharmacological solution

Biofeedback can’t be compared to classical medication or to passive therapy:

  • It is an active method, requiring the client or patient to actively participate;
  • It is a learning process, requiring a learning process and behavioral change;
  • It only works when the client is motivated;
  • It requires the right biofeedback equipment and in most cases a trained clinician as a coach.

This makes clear how biofeedback differs from taking medication. Taking medication requires much less involvement and does not always offer a permanent solution. This is the case with the traditional pharmaceutical treatment of stress related health problems, in which taking medication does not address the cause of the condition, but merely treats its symptoms.

Since 1992 the acceptance of biofeedback has increased significantly. The scientific evidence is steadily growing: pubmed.gov now lists over 7400 studies on biofeedback. The American association of Applied Psychophysiology and Biofeedback (AAPB) has created a list of the levels of efficacy of biofeedback for various applications.

If you are a health professional and if you want to know how biofeedback could help your clients or patients, or what scientific studies are available, please contact us for information. We also offer biofeedback workshops on these topics.

Requirements for biofeedback

Biofeedback and neurofeedback have some major advantages over the traditional use of pharmaceutical medication. But as no method is perfect, there are some requirements to achieve success.

  • Biofeedback requires a well-trained clinician or coach. Unlike most medication, which can be used without the supervision of a medical professional, a biofeedback session won't be successful when the clinician does not know how to use the equipment or how to analyze and interpret the data;
  • Biofeedback requires dedication and motivation of the patient. Some clients may not be motivated to go through the 'effort' of working on their own health;
  • Biofeedback takes time. In order to be truly permanently effective, a good number of sessions (5 to 10 or even more for neurofeedback treatments) may be required;
  • Biofeedback is still not very widespread. The number of well-trained health professionals who can offer this method is increasing, although rather limited;
  • Biofeedback is not as well accepted as most pharmaceutical solutions.

Advantages of biofeedback

  • Biofeedback can truly help eliminate health problems that are stress-related or that have a major psychosomatic component, whereas medication mostly addresses symptoms;
  • Biofeedback can assist in rehabilitation, incontinence and other areas as a complementary solution, applied along with therapy and medication;
  • Biofedback delivers persistent effects, as patients learn to apply the techniques in daily life, without needing equipment;
  • Biofeedback has no known side-effects, so they are a low risk solution;
  • Biofeedback educates people about their health and empowers them to take control. It shows the progress they are making, which is a strong motivating factor.