Jeffrey Ellens, Iowa State University Student Counseling Service, demonstrates the university's newest stress buster for students. The term biofeedback was created in 1969 for the unique process described here, but the true biofeedback training came in to use as biofeedback was demonstrated to be a helpful tool in teaching and learning self-regulation skills that involve training. In educational and business settings, biofeedback training is a tool for developing deep relaxation and stress management skills by report that are important in the prevention of stress related disorders.
Biofeedback therapists are health professionals who use biofeedback training in their work.
The length of biofeedback therapy depends upon the type and severity of symptoms being treated and on the motivation of the patient. Biofeedback training begins with a sensitive instrument designed to measure a specific psychological process for example, electrical activity of skeletal muscles.
Typically, deep breathing, relaxation and visualization procedures are used with feedback of information, although the specific training procedures vary according to the purpose of the training or therapy. Learning to change physiologic functions is a skill, and like all skills, practice and knowledge are essential. Well-known brain processes govern the physiological response to mental activity such as stress.  When stress continues, physical symptoms might develop.
Biofeedback instruments and highly sensitive, safe electronic devices that monitor physiologic processes.
The electromyography (EMG) measures the electrical activity of skeletal muscles monitored with sensors placed on the skin over appropriate muscles. The Electrodermal response (EDR) feedback instrument measures skin conductivity from the fingers and palms. The electroencephalograph (EEG) monitors brainwave activity from sensors placed on the scalp. Specialized biofeedback instruments have been developed to facilitate self-regulation in a variety of stress-related and organic disorders such as heart arrhythmias, fecal and urinary incontinence including bedwetting, respiratory problems and irritable bowel syndrome.
Biofeedback therapy you’ve always as new applications and training procedures are developed a research and clinical practice. Gradually biofeedback training evolved into a powerful therapeutic procedure and when it is incorporated into a treatment program in a clinical setting, the term biofeedback therapy is often used. In clinical settings these and other self-regulation skills gained through biofeedback training may be used for reducing or eliminating symptoms for stress-related and organic disorders, and for regaining muscle function and reducing pain following injury or illness. Many psychologists, psychiatrists, social workers, nurses and physical therapists have been trained in a clinical use of biofeedback training.
In addition, the therapist will know a variety of techniques and procedures that facilitate treatment. Biofeedback therapy is covered by many health insurance companies, although policies may differ.
With your permission the biofeedback therapist will consult with your physician regarding your diagnosis and progress. The biofeedback instrument is connected to the muscle with sensors placed on the skin; it amplifies it converts the psychological response into meaningful information, usually a tone or visual display which is fed back to the person.
To understand how powerful the connection of mind and body is, imagine what happens inside the body when you step on a slithering black snake.
Through relaxation and stress management however, other brain processes are triggered that reduce the stress response and enabled the body to recover.
In many applications the skill of deep relaxation is also essential because relaxation promotes health and helpful in treating and preventing many disorders. Physiologic signals from the body are amplified by the feedback instrument may have a meter, light, computer display or tone that presents this information to the trainee.
EMG feedback is used for general relaxation training and is the primary modality for treatment of tension headache, bruxism and temporo-mandibular joint problems, chronic pain, muscle spasm, and partial paralysis or other muscular dysfunction due to injury, stroke or congenial disorders. When the small vessels in the skin dilate, blood flow and temperature increase, and when is vessels constrict, blood flow and temperature decrease. Among self-regulation techniques biofeedback training is unique because the instrumentation provides instant information that is not normally available to the person and simultaneously verifies the success of the procedure being used for self-regulation.


With help from a biofeedback therapist, you can learn to change your heart rate or blood pressure, for example. In the clinic, biofeedback training may be the primary therapeutic modality, or it may be used with other therapeutic interventions such as lifestyle counseling, desensitization training, cognitive restructuring or psychotherapy.
Healthcare workers who do not have a professional degree may be trained and work under the supervision of a licensed practitioner. If you are self referred and medical records are not available, therapist may request that you have a medical examination prior to biofeedback training to ensure proper diagnosis and treatment. The person uses the information as a guide while practicing a variety of procedures to achieve reduced muscle tension. The first response is body arousal as adrenaline is released and other responses prepare the body for fight or flight – and then you discover it was only the garden hose! Because mind and body interact, we can guide the body for help when stress, disease processes or injury at Hendrick the body’s natural tendency to remain healthy.
In other applications, such as recovery of muscle function after injury, the primary tool is feedback, with a therapist functioning as a coach, and teaching skills for improved performance. Physical rehabilitation through neuromuscular reeducation is an important application of EMG feedback. The vessels in the fingers are particularly sensitive to stress and relaxation and therefore feedback of finger temperature is a useful tool in relaxation training. EDR feedback has been used in the treatment of excessive sweating and related dermatological conditions and for relaxation and desensitization training.
Adults and children who participate in biofeedback training and therapy often achieved significant symptom reduction and are able to reduce or eliminate medications while experiencing a renewed sense of physical and mental well-being.
At first you use the monitor to see your progress, but eventually you will be able to achieve success without the monitor or electrodes. In addition, the biofeedback certification Institute of America (BCIA) certifies biofeedback therapists through a national examination.
Because relaxation and stress management are learn skills that are practiced with continued improvement, treatment may end before symptoms are completely manageable or eliminated. A biofeedback instrument is like a special mirror that provides information about a process inside the body, which the person may not be aware of, or may find difficult to regulate. Biofeedback instruments are important well learning self-regulation because, like feedback from a near, the feedback from the instrument helps the training gain control of mental and physiological processes that enhance optimal functioning.
The seemingly simple process of feedback facilitates learning and acquisition of self-regulation skills that become life-long habits.
Blood flow feedback is also used in the treatment of specific vascular disorders including migraine headache, Reynaud’s disease, essential hypertension and vascular complications of other diseases such as diabetes. Created and directed by Student Counseling Service staff psychologist Todd Pietruszka, the center is free and open to all ISU students. Follow up sessions may be recommended to ensure that the self-regulation skills and symptom reduction are maintained.
Biofeedback instrumentation is no longer needed when self-regulation skills are mastered, just at the dance studio mirror is no longer needed when the dancer has mastered the dance.
Iowa State is the first of the three Regents' universities to offer a biofeedback service to address students' emotional needs.Biofeedback uses technologies like video games and guided meditations to teach relaxation techniques, concentration skills and healthy coping responses. For those who respond to stress with a parasympathetic response, the explanation must be couched in these terms, again, with the aim of training being the balancing of the two systems.
These unconscious psychological occurrences offer insight into corresponding emotional responses.
Biofeedback teaches people to become aware of their physiological responses, while providing techniques -- like deep breathing, visualization or mindfulness -- to consciously reset the body's conditioned responses. For example, when you take your temperature and find you have a fever, you might call the doctor."Quiet space away from the daily grindIowa State's Biofeedback Center is a compact room with three massage recliners, each facing its own wall-mounted computer monitor. They may also learn to respond automatically to stress by contracting, for example, in the area of the neck and shoulders. Students start with an orientation session that explains how to check out and use the equipment, and how to navigate the computer programs.


Just as we can change habitual typing errors, or learn to swim more efficiently, so can we eliminate maladaptive psychophsyiological patterns and learn more adaptive patterns. The equipment fits into a case about the size of a portable CD player and consists of finger sensors, mouse pad and earphones.
Clinical biofeedback also involves learning relaxation techniques, using the instruments to the practitioner and client toward processes that are most effective for the client. Sitting in the recliners, the students wear noise-cancelling headphones and fingertip sensors, which measure skin conductance and heart rate. As students practice the relaxation techniques presented, they can watch real-time graphs of their physiological responses.
The client is responsible for between-session practice of relaxation or other homework techniques and for maintaining awareness of symptom patterns as the relate to life-style factors. Once mastered, they can use the techniques whenever needed--before taking a test or giving a class presentation, for example. Sessions can last from 15 minutes to an hour or more,"The training module teaches how to become aware of your body, how to use breathing, how to become mindful of your thoughts," Pietruszka said. The temperature and weight readings from these devices give “feedback” about your body to tell you whether you have a fever or have gained weight. In a similar way, biofeedback therapists use specialized equipment to train patients how to improve their health by using signals from their own bodies. Some relaxation tools taught in the computer programs include meditation techniques, mindfulness (a calm awareness of one's physical and emotional state) deep breathing exercises, visualization and guided recitations. Two of the programs use fantasy-based game environments to present guided activities for meditation and emotional control."Once you learn the processes, you don't need to come to the center to practice them in your life," Pietruszka said.
The therapist attaches sensors or electrodes to the body and these sensors provide a variety of readings–feedback–which is displayed on the equipment for the patient to see. These are things you can do in a public crowd, no one would know you're doing them."In addition to addressing anxiety issues, biofeedback can help students who struggle with concentration, or have difficulty with negative or self-critical thoughts. With this information, patients can learn to make changes so subtle that at first they cannot be consciously perceived.
The ultimate goal is emotional control," Pietruszka said."The process of quieting the mind has a lot of benefit beyond calming anxiety," he said. People with urinary or fecal incontinence or other pelvic floor disorders can achieve improved bladder control.
What happens during a biofeedback session? In a normal biofeedback session, electrodes are attached to your skin.
They send information to a small monitoring box that translates the measurements into a tone that varies in pitch, a visual meter that varies in brightness, or a computer screen that shows lines moving across a grid.
Appointments are required for the orientation session only; walk ins are welcome for subsequent sessions. To schedule an orientation session, call (515) 294-5056.It is not necessary to be a client of the Student Counseling Service to use The Biofeedback Center.
For example, it shows promise for treating urinary incontinence, which is a problems for more than 15 million Americans. Based on findings in clinical studies, the Agency for Health Care Policy and Research has recommended biofeedback therapy as a treatment for urinary incontinence. Treatment of headache, incontinence, and Raynaud's disease requires at least 10 weekly sessions and some follow-up sessions as health improves. Conditions like high blood pressure, however, usually require 20 weekly biofeedback sessions before you see improvement.



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