When you feel stress, your body reacts by initiating a number of responses, including raising your blood pressure, pulse, and respiratory rates, and initiating muscle contraction. This is called the fight or flight reaction, and it is potentially damaging to the body if the body has to maintain this state for prolonged periods of time.
Biofeedback is a tool that allows you to monitor, control, and reduce stress in your body. For example, when a person is stressed, they take fast, shallow breaths leading to poor delivery of oxygen to the tissues. For optimal oxygen delivery they need to learn diaphragmatic (abdominal) breathing, which facilitates a good oxygen supply to the body and in turn promotes feelings of relaxation and well-being and improves ability to cope with stress, pain, and disease.
Perhaps just as importantly, biofeedback signals also provide validation that the pain is not "all in your head." The significance of the signal is that it shows concretely that something is wrong. This is supported by scientific studies. Biofeedback is then able to provide techniques for dealing with what could otherwise be a frustrating and intangible but very serious problem.
When do you use biofeedback relaxation techniques?
Relaxation techniques should be used throughout the day to release and eliminate tension buildup and should become an integral part of your day-to-day activities.
Little reminders around your home and work site, such as small florescent dots placed in strategic areas, will catch your attention and remind you to correct your posture, do a body scan, take a few breaths, and do a short relaxation exercise to prevent muscle tension from building up. Once the expertise is developed, this can be done in minutes; and with time and practice, it will become automatic.
Zenona Hrabar, MD
in association with the MediResource Clinical Team