If you have fibromyalgia syndrome, you are probably sick and tired of the chronic pain, morning stiffness, and other symptoms that you are suffering from. If so, biofeedback therapy might be just the treatment you need to help relieve your discomfort.
What is Biofeedback?
Biofeedback is an alternative treatment for medical and psychological illnesses. It operates on the theory that you can reduce your fibromyalgia symptoms by influencing your body through your own willpower.
Biofeedback therapy uses a machine to record electric impulses emitted by your body, in the form of temperature, muscle twitches, and brainwaves. The biofeedback machine then “feeds back” these impulses to you in the form of lights and beeps, which are displayed on a biofeedback monitor. For example, when your temperature increases, the number of beeps that you hear also increases. The object of the therapy is to find a way to reduce the number of lights and beeps that are fed back to you. This will relax your body’s electrical impulses and reduce your symptoms. With training, you can eventually apply this knowledge without the use of a machine.
What Can it Treat?
Biofeedback therapy was designed to treat a variety of illnesses including chronic pain disorders, paralysis, and fatigue. It has also proven helpful in relieving some types of psychological illnesses, such as obsessive-compulsive disorder. Biofeedback has also proven to be helpful in reducing various symptoms of fibromyalgia.
How Does It Work?
Biofeedback works by training you to better recognize your body’s own reactions to stress. When you are exposed to stress (either emotional or physical), your body responds in various ways – your heart beat may increase, your joints may hurt, or your hands might feel cold. By showing you, through beeps and lights, how your body is feeling, biofeedback helps you to become more attuned to your body’s needs.
Biofeedback also works by using rewards to get you to correct disturbances in your body. During the therapy you are “rewarded” for reducing your stress in the form of a reduction of beeps and lights. When practiced enough, your body will eventually automatically correct itself.
Types of Biofeedback
There are a number of different types of biofeedback therapy. They are often used together in order to achieve the best affect.
EMG biofeedback is the most common type of biofeedback therapy and is especially useful for fibromyalgia patients. It is used to correct muscle pain and stiffness. A biofeedback device called an electromyograph measures electricity given off by your muscles.
Peripheral Skin Temperature (PST)
This type of biofeedback measures electrical impulses given off by the flow of your blood. This provides information about your skin temperature, which can be used to fight persistent cold or Raynaud’s phenomenon.
Electroderm Response (EDR)
EDR monitors electricity produced by your sweating reflexes, and is also known as sweating biofeedback. It is used to correct anxiety and depression.
Brainwave Electroencephalogram (EEG)
EEG biofeedback measures the type of waves that your brain produces. It is helpful in correcting all sorts of ailments, ranging from depression to sleep disorders.
Breathing biofeedback gives you information about your pulse rate and how fast you are breathing. It is used to help correct anxiety and fatigue.
Benefits of Biofeedback for Fibromyalgia
Biofeedback has proven to be very effective in reducing symptoms of fibromyalgia syndrome. It helps to:
- increase physical function
- decrease tender points
- minimize pain
- decrease disordered sleep patterns
In one recent study, fibromyalgia patients who attended 15 biofeedback sessions experienced a decrease in their number of tender points, as well as improvements in their muscle stiffness and pain symptoms. These benefits lasted for up to six months.
Starting Biofeedback Therapy
If you are interested in trying biofeedback therapy, there are a number of resources that you can turn to. Biofeedback is normally practiced by licensed professionals, and is commonly used by psychologists, psychiatrists, dentists, and physical therapists. Your health care provider should be able to refer you to a reliable practitioner. Most countries also have biofeedback associations that participate in certifying and recommending biofeedback practitioners.
It is normally recommended that you try between 7 and 10, forty-minute sessions. Each session usually costs between $70 and $100. The good news is that most insurance plans cover some of the costs of biofeedback therapy.