Biofeedback is an alternative therapy in which transducers (electronic devices that convert energy from one form to another) are attached to the surface of the body. These transducers feed bodily information to a processor unit. Processed information is relayed back to the individual through various emitter devices. This sequence of patient to transducer, to processor, to emitter, back to patient is called a biofeedback loop. The basic theory behind biofeedback therapy is that by using the information gained from the biofeedback loop, the patient can learn to control his or her body’s reactions to internal and external stimulation.
Biofeedback is generally used as a pain management technique. It is often combined with other strategies for chronic pain relief. While there is no evidence that biofeedback can directly address conditions like foraminal stenosis, prolapsed discs, arthritis of the spine or sciatica, it can be effective in relieving the symptoms associated with these underlying conditions.
Basics of biofeedback
The goal of biofeedback is to learn how to control bodily functions and systems that are generally understood to be automatic. These “automatic” functions include:
- Heart rate
- Body temperature
- Brain wave activity
- Sympathetic nervous system
- Immune system
To achieve this goal, the patient works with a biofeedback therapist. The therapist attaches the patient to a number of sensors that monitor muscle reactions, heart rate, sweat production, blood flow and other biological markers. The information from these sensors is fed into a computer, which then reports the results to the patient and therapist.
The therapist then works with the patient to devise relaxation and visualization techniques, as well as physical exercises and breathing patterns, to attempt to control the functions being monitored. With time and effort, the patient may be able to learn to control undesirable symptoms through biofeedback techniques without the aid of the biofeedback loop apparatus.
Why biofeedback may be prescribed
Biofeedback is often an add-on treatment, used when more traditional therapies are not effective or thought to be too risky. Since biofeedback is completely nonsurgical, non-invasive, and carries no known side effects, it may be used in chronic pain management to minimize long-term reliance on medication and/or to give patients a sense of control over their situation.
Biofeedback is generally thought to be safe, however, everyone’s situation is different. Check with your physician to learn if biofeedback therapy, braces, massage therapy, or any other conservative treatment may help with your neck or back pain. If you and your physician decide biofeedback is an appropriate therapy, your physician can refer you to a biofeedback therapist in your area.
If your physician determines that biofeedback and other conservative treatments are not adequate pain relievers and you may need surgery, contact Laser Spine Institute. We offer minimally invasive decompression and stabilization procedures to treat a wide variety of spinal conditions that are an effective alternative to traditional open spine surgery.
Let us help you take the next step to pain relief by guiding you through your treatment options so you can make a confident decision about your spine care needs.