Biofeedback, a therapy that involves training yourself to control core body functions such as blood pressure and heart rate, is an increasingly accepted treatment for conditions including neck pain.
Although biofeedback training is frequently lumped into the category of alternative medicine along with acupuncture and massage, a great number of successful studies have been completed on this treatment, pushing it into the realm of mainstream treatment plans.
For example, a study published by the Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation found that patients suffering from work-related neck pain benefited from learning biofeedback techniques. Participants experienced reduced pain and scored lower on a special scale called the neck disability index. Results held up even after patients were re-evaluated six months later.
People experiencing neck pain from hunching over computers for long hours every day may find relief from biofeedback training, studies say.
Despite biofeedback’s medical success helping people manage neck pain, researchers aren’t sure how it works.
Possible reasons include biofeedback’s focus on relaxation. Studies have shown that stress exacerbates neck pain. For example, Swedish researchers at the University of Gothenburg compared incidences of neck pain among men and women. Among those studied, women experienced both more stress and higher rates of neck pain. Women who were stressed out were particularly susceptible to developing neck pain.
Biofeedback works by teaching people how to control physiological processes such as muscle activity and skin temperature.
The most common methods used in biofeedback training include deep breathing to slow the heart rate, meditation, and progressive muscle relaxation, a process that involves tightening and then relaxing select muscle groups. Biofeedback training also includes guided imagery, where patients try to visualize a relaxing scene to de-stress the mind.
These processes are all part of the autonomic nervous system, the circuitry of the body that acts without conscious intervention. Biofeedback allows patients to exert control over these systems, achieving better health and reduced pain along the way.
During training, patients are hooked up to machines measuring body functions. Access to instant measurements helps patients learn when their efforts are successful, so they can employ the techniques at any time, any place. Each training session lasts about one hour, with the total number dependent on the patient and specific condition. Many patients begin to feel improvements within 8 or 10 sessions. In addition to the training sessions, specialists will likely assign additional relaxation-type exercises to try at home.
Have you ever tried biofeedback training?
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