Passage 5: Biofeedback
When Biofeedback was first developed, a number of years ago, it caused a lot of excitement. People hoped that Biofeedback could be used to cure all kinds of physical and mental problems. Biofeedback is the name for a medical technique that helps people treat certain problems by becoming more aware of their own bodies. In Biofeedback, instruments that measure bodily functions such as muscle tension, temperature, and blood flow are attached to the body. The instruments produce signals – for example, a series of sounds (beeps) or a flashing light – that the person can hear or see. The patient then uses the information to help gain control over the function. The most widely used Biofeedback instrument is the electrocardiography, or ECG . The ECG is used to measure muscle tension. It is made up of several electrodes, which are placed on the skin near a particular area, depending on the symptom. For example, for headaches, a symptom often caused by excessive tension in the neck muscles, the electrodes are placed on the forehead or near the back of the neck. When the tension is present, the ECG produces a signal and the patient is taught to respond by relaxing the appropriate muscles. In many cases, the relaxation of these muscles causes the headache to go away. While biofeedback has not turned out to be cure-all, it has been used successfully to treat a limited number of problems – especially those caused by chronic tension.