Biofeedback is used to help control specific body functions. These body functions include heart rate, muscle contractions, and body temperature. The physical therapist will place electrodes on your body during biofeedback therapy to act as sensors of body functions.
The electrodes sense how the body functions and a biofeedback processor analyzes this information. Audiovisual cues are sent to you and your physical therapist so that you can learn to control the sensed body functions and learn to improve your physical performance and health.
Biofeedback therapy is often used in physical therapy treatment programs. It’s an excellent complementary therapy when used in conjunction with other treatments. Biofeedback is safe and has no adverse side effects.
Many patients want to avoid surgery or medications, and with biofeedback being very safe, it’s an attractive option for treatment.
Types of Biofeedback Measurements
Physical therapists measure different physiologic functions, including:
- Heart rate: controlling your heart rate through biofeedback can be done with an electrocardiograph (EKG) that measures your heart rate. Also using, photoplethysmography (a machine that detects changes in blood volume), or a combination of the two.
- Muscle contraction: physical therapists place skin sensors near specific skeletal muscles and measurements are made by an electromyograph (EMG) machine. Several urologic conditions are treated in this way.
- Brain waves: a physical therapist connects sensors to your scalp sensors to measure the electrical activity in your brain (brain waves). These sensors are also connected to an electroencephalograph (EEG) machine.
- Breathing: your physical therapist will put specialized bands around your chest and abdomen, which measure your breathing patterns and rate.
- Body temperature: measuring blood flow to your skin with sensors on your fingers or feet for temperature biofeedback.
- Sweat gland activity: finger, wrist, or palm sensors will measure the the amount of sweat on the skin through the electrical activity of your sweat glands.
Physical herapists use biofeedback to treat several conditions, including:
- Chronic pain
- Muscle spasms
- Back pain
- High blood pressure
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
- Raynaud’s disease
- Urologic disorders
The goal of biofeedback and pelvic floor therapy is to retrain and strengthen the pelvic floor muscles to improve your pelvic health. Specific urologic conditions treated include bowel movements, fecal and urinary incontinence, nighttime incontinence, and urinary frequency.
A pelvic floor therapy program used in conjunction with biofeedback successfully treats many urological conditions. These conditions include the following:
- Urge incontinence – an urge to urinate that is uncontrollable and strong
- Stress incontinence – physical activity, sneezing, or laughing causes the loss of control
- Urinary frequency – urinating more often that previously
- Nocturnal enuresis – also called bed wetting
- Nocturia – waking up often during the night to urinate
- Erectile dysfunction – inability to obtain or keep an erection
- Fecal incontinence – inability to control the bowels
For those who have had surgery leading to bladder control problems, pelvic floor therapy and biofeedback techniques have been greatly beneficial. Examples of surgeries include bladder surgery, prostate removal, hysterectomy, and colon surgery,
What to expect from biofeedback sessions
Biofeedback treatments usually last between thirty minutes to an hour. Many have significant improvements in symptoms within two to three months of therapy (usually eight to ten sessions). Your physical therapist will recommend the number of visits based on the severity of your condition. Other factors include how effective the treatments are progressing, and how quickly you are learning how to effectively exercise your pelvic floor muscles.
Biofeedback can help you improve your health. Biofeedback is not for everyone. For example, it may work differently than intended for people with some health conditions. Talk to your therapist or doctor about whether it could work for you.
And don’t stop any medications unless your doctor instructs you to do so. Contact Synergy Physical Therapy and Wellness for more information on Biofeedback, or to schedule a new appointment, please call 440-260-7670.