Biofeedback: A non-pharmacological solution

Thursday 5 April 2018

Biofeedback can’t be compared to classical medication or to passive therapy:

  • It is an active method, requiring the client or patient to actively participate;
  • It is a learning process, requiring a learning process and behavioral change;
  • It only works when the client is motivated;
  • It requires the right biofeedback equipment and in most cases a trained clinician as a coach.

This makes clear how biofeedback differs from taking medication. Taking medication requires much less involvement and does not always offer a permanent solution. This is the case with the traditional pharmaceutical treatment of stress related health problems, in which taking medication does not address the cause of the condition, but merely treats its symptoms.

Since 1992 the acceptance of biofeedback has increased significantly. The scientific evidence is steadily growing: pubmed.gov now lists over 7400 studies on biofeedback. The American association of Applied Psychophysiology and Biofeedback (AAPB) has created a list of the levels of efficacy of biofeedback for various applications.

Biofeedback is a method to visualize the physiological processes which are taking place ‘inside’ the body, triggered by the nervous system. A special electronic measuring device, such as a NeXus biofeedback system, is connected to the body which measures parameters such as heart rate, blood volume pulse and respiration. By using these physiological signals as feedback under the guidance of a trained professional clinician, people learn to improve their health and their performance. It has been scientifically ascertained that many conditions can be treated successfully by applying biofeedback, thus reducing the intake of medication.

When applied by a qualified clinician, biofeedback can be a very effective method to treat modern diseases which are mainly caused by lifestyle and stress. It is well known that chronic stress has a negative impact on the functioning of the nervous system, as well as on the immune and cardiovascular system.

Chronic stress can cause health problems over time, and many people still turn to medication to deal with these problems. In this case however, drugs only suppress the symptoms, but don’t deal with the origin of the disease: stress is caused by behavior, and therefore changing the behavior is the real answer.

Biofeedback focuses on improving health and performance, rather than treating a disease. For instance, in the case of chronic tension headache, a major and common form of headache, it makes sense to enable the sufferer to make the headache go away by reducing stress and tension, instead of taking pain killers that only takes away the pain. This is what biofeedback can do.


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