Biofeedback For Pain

Apr 23 2011

Pain Biofeedback

Do you suffer from chronic pain?

People who suffer from chronic pain often cannot get adequate relief from conventional medicines alone; thus, many sufferers turn towards alternative or complimentary treatments to help them manage their pain.

Does Biofeedback Work?

Studies that have used biofeedback machines to treat chronic pain have shown very promising results. With several decades of research already in the books, it’s clear that biofeedback can play an important role in providing therapy for chronic pain.

Click Here to learn see a list of biofeedback machines for home-use.

A Better Understanding of Pain

Pain is a complex sensation that cannot be described as a pure sensory experience. To understand the nature of pain, one must adopt a biopsychosocial perspective. This means contemplating the psychological and social aspects of pain, in addition to its obvious physical manifestations.

Biofeedback treats the physical symptoms of pain by harnessing the power of the mind. In many cases, the sensation of pain can be greatly diminished through guided mental activities and deep muscle relaxation.

Pain Disorders That Biofeedback Can Treat

Biofeedback training has been shown to help pain stemming from all kinds of sources. Here are some disorders that have been helped by biofeedback therapy:

  • Headaches (common and migraine)
  • Fibromyalgia syndrome (FMS)
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Upper body pain (neck, shoulder, back)
  • Repetitive strain injury (RSI)
  • Carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS)
  • Raynaud’s syndrome
  • Spinal pain
  • Diabetes-related pain
  • Myofascial pain
  • Cancer-related pain

Specific Pain Disorders

Let’s examine a few specific pain disorders in greater detail.

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (CTS)

This extremely common work-related extremity disorder can produce sustained pain in the hands and wrists of sufferers. With the help of a biofeedback machine, patients can learn to relax the muscles associated with this disorder. This can lead to a substantial decrease in the severity of pain, making the condition less discomforting when the hands are in use. Additionally, longterm recovery is more likely to take place when over-active muscle tension has been dealt with appropriately.

Low Back Pain

Chronic low back pain can stem from work-related stress or injury, such as sitting in a bad posture for prolonged periods of time, or using inappropriate lifting techniques to move heavy objects.

Pain felt in the lower back, even when the back isn’t in use, is often due to unwarranted muscle tension in this area. This sustained tension comes from repeated over-use of these muscles. When this condition becomes chronic, it is described as a musculoskeletal disorder.

Through EMG biofeedback training, a person can learn how to relax their back muscles on command. The goal of biofeedback training is to re-condition the muscles so that they stay relaxed when not in use. This addresses the core problem of lower back pain for many people, and is a better longterm solution than just masking the pain with drugs.

Without treating the problems that cause low back pain, a person may eventually experience tissue damage or even permanent spinal damage. It is important to release muscle tension in the back before more serious disorders manifest. Biofeedback training is a great way to maintain a healthy back.

Fibromyalgia Syndrome

Pain is one of the most difficult symptoms to cope with for people suffering from fibromyalgia syndrome (FMS). Sufferers of FMS often report widespread musculoskeletal pain with multiple tender points on their bodies. These symptoms seemingly stem from no obvious cause, which is one reason why they’re so difficult to treat.

To lessen the symptoms of pain related to this disease, a biofeedback therapist will often employ a variety of techniques to monitor the physiological responses in their patients while they’re experiencing pain.

Using a multi-channel EMG, a therapist can record a patient’s muscle tension at different sites on their body. Feeding this information back to the patient, the treatment subject can learn how to relax certain muscles to decrease the severity and frequency of their pain. Eventually, they can learn to do this on their own, without the need for a biofeedback machine or therapist. This is the end goal of biofeedback training.

Chronic Pain Syndrome

Chronic pain syndrome is a general classification for pain that lasts longer than 3-6 months. This type of pain is not fully treatable with conventional medicines and poses a great challenge for patients who seek relief.

The most effective treatment for CPS is a multidisciplinary approach – biopsychosocial. Biofeedback training can be a important part of this comprehensive treatment plan. Biofeedback training often works best when it’s combined with cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT).

Biofeedback Machine

The Best Way to Treat Pain

For many patients, pain is brought upon by a physical ailment, such as an injury or some type of chronic disease. But because such ailments may not be fully treatable or curable, some patients must learn to cope with frequent or constant pain throughout their lives.

Solely using biofeedback to treat pain is controversial, at best. Although pain can often be decreased through proper biofeedback training, it is best used as part of an adjunctive treatment regime that includes other forms of conventional and complimentary treatments, like cognitive behavioral therapy and pharmacology. This follows the biopsychosocial model of pain, and is the approach most backed by medical research.

How Does Biofeedback Treat Pain?

Biofeedback treatment is a training method where patients learn to control certain physiological functions through mental effort.

The process typically involves sensors, from a biofeedback machine, that are placed on a patient’s body to pick up subtle physiological signals. These signals are then processed into a stream of real time information that’s fed back to the patient.

As a patient’s thoughts are focused on a desired mental or physical state, the biofeedback device can show real physiological changes taking place within their body. This quickly trains the patient on how to use their mind to achieve a certain goal, like the reduction of pain through deep muscle relaxation.

After a technique is mastered, there’s no need for further training with a biofeedback machine, as the patient will be able to  reproduce the desired state on their own.

Another benefit of using a biofeedback device is that it can boost a patient’s self-efficacy. Through biofeedback training, a patient can readily observe just how much control they can have over their autonomic physiological functions.

Biofeedback to Unlearn Pain

A stressful event in the environment can often create or heighten pain in individuals who suffer from pain-related disorders. When such an event is experienced, it can trigger a strong emotional reaction, which furthermore activates the sympathetic nervous system – the fight or flight response that shifts the body into high gear.

Unfortunately, for some people, this response can become habitually over-activated (through classical conditioning), leading to various bodily dysfunctions that produce or heighten the sensation of pain.

Biofeedback can make a person aware of how stressors become triggers for certain ailments that cause pain. Through work done in therapy, a patient can learn how to relax their nervous system and skeletal muscles on command to prevent the onset of pain, or at least limit its severity when it manifests.

The Mental and Physical Aspects of Pain

Concerning the mental and physical aspects of pain, research has uncovered an interesting interplay between these modalities.

It’s been found that feedback loops exist between one’s physiological and psychological systems. These can lead to a heightened experience of pain, or in the case of successful biofeedback training, a decreased sensation of pain when these systems are in use.

For instance, facial muscles have nerves that connect directly to the autonomic nervous system. By changing one’s facial expression, a person can actually influence their nervous system. Because a relaxed nervous system is consistent with a decreased sensation of pain, biofeedback training is sometimes used to teach patients how to deeply relax their facial muscles.

Many of us spend years holding tension in our facial area without ever being aware of it. Biofeedback corrects this behavior and gets closer to the core issues that create the sensation of pain, rather than just masking its symptoms.

USB Biofeedback Device For PC and Mac

Where Can I Buy A Biofeedback Machine For Home-Use?

Those who want to learn how to achieve a deep state of relaxation to better deal with their pain can now get biofeedback devices created for home-use.

One such device is the Iom by Wild Divine. It plugs into any modern computer, PC or Mac, through a USB connector and is supported by high quality software titles.

Click Here to see a list of biofeedback machines currently available for purchase.

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