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What are the Different Types of Biofeedback Equipment?

Article Details
  • Written By: Brenda Scott
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 01 October 2018
  • Copyright Protected:
    2003-2018
    Conjecture Corporation
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Biofeedback is a method for training people to use their mind to control internal, involuntary reactions such as blood pressure, heartbeat, and responses to stress. This method, pioneered in the 1960’s, is now recommended treatment for a number of physical conditions. Biofeedback involves monitoring a patient’s bodily responses in a manner that both he and his therapist can see, and then learning mental and relaxation exercises which alter those responses. To accomplish this, the therapist may choose from a variety of biofeedback equipment to monitor muscle tension, skin temperature, blood pressure and brain waves.

The electromyogram (EMG) is one of the most popular pieces of biofeedback equipment. This machine monitors the electrical activity of muscles at rest and during contraction. The EMG has been used for years to diagnose a variety of nervous disorders, but it has more recently become a valuable biofeedback tool for physical therapy and teaching relaxation techniques. Numerous studies have shown that patients who have suffered strokes or other physical trauma recover faster when EMG biofeedback is combined with physical therapy.

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The electroencephalogram (EEG), biofeedback equipment which measures brain waves, is being used to help patients train their brain as well as alter behavior problems and responses to external stimuli such as stress. Some therapists employ the EEG to help patients with anxiety, depression, migraine headaches, and relaxation. The patient and therapist are able to observe the patient’s brain wave responses to stimuli and relaxation techniques. Faced with an observable pattern, patients are able to learn techniques which retrain the brain’s responses much faster than by performing relaxation techniques without feedback. EEG biofeedback also helps patients diagnosed with brain trauma, autism, strokes or other injuries to function better given the limitations caused by their conditions.

Another valuable piece of biofeedback equipment is the electrocardiogram (EKG). This machine measures and records the electrical activity of the heart. In training sessions, the therapist can lead a patient through a visualization exercise which simulates a stressful episode from his life. The patient is able to see physical evidence of his heart’s reaction to the stress. The patient is tghen led through relaxation techniques which teach him how to change his body’s reactions to stressful situations, and the equipment allows him to watch his body respond as he relaxes.

Other, smaller devices are used to treat specific conditions. Biofeedback treatment for sleep apnea sufferers concentrates on teaching the patient breathing techniques. Strain gauges, which are attached to a computer, are placed around the patient’s chest. These measure his breathing depth and respiration rate as he proceeds through a series of breathing exercises, giving him immediate feedback regarding the effectiveness of his efforts.

Many therapists use systems which combine several kinds of biofeedback equipment into one unit. The more elaborate, expensive units are designed for trained medical or psychiatric professionals. In recent years, however, a number of portable and relatively inexpensive types of biofeedback equipment have become available for use at home. It is generally recommended, however, that a person work with a trained professional for a time to learn the techniques required to reap the benefits of biofeedback therapy.

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