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By Christine Coolidge

Biofeedback is a participatory clinical process involving the use of sophisticated electronic equipment in the treatment of pain and stress-related disorders. A trained biotherapist places a sensing device on the individualís skin by means of a temporary adhesive or elastic band. The sensory device "feeds back" information about what our body is doing at any given moment; helping us gain conscious control over such involuntary functions as blood pressure, pulse, digestive system functions, deep muscle tension and brain wave levels.

Through biofeedback, used in conjunction with one of the many "relaxation type" techniques, (quieting response, autogenic training, yoga, meditation, autohypnosis, etc.) one can learn to lower blood pressure, reduce pulse rate, slow breathing, relax deep muscles and reduce pain. By increasing awareness of these responses, an individual can reduce or eliminate symptoms associated with such stress disorders as tension and migraine headaches, TMJ, hypertension, stress angina, irritable bowel, grinding teeth, and insomnia. Biofeedback is particularly effective in successful treatment of OB/GYN difficulties, hyperactivity and attention deficit in children and adults, Raynaudís Syndrome, and in the alleviation of pain.

A non-invasive approach without negative side effects, biofeedback is a training process which educates both the mind and the body; teaching individuals to change physiological and psychological processes and processing. Through sensitive measurement and rapid feedback of dynamic body functions such as muscle tension, skin temperature andbrain wave levels, we learn to change and modify these functions ourselves, in ways we never thought possible. We learn how to bring about these changes - plus changes in the way the brain processes and responds to various stimuli, including pain. Many successful individuals use biofeedback with imagery to improve peak performance, or to deepen relaxation, enhancing their individual autohypnosis.

The biofeedback equipment does nothing to us rather it acts as a "mirror", measuring and reflecting what is happening within our body and mind, relaying that information through a combination of audio and visual responses likelights, tones, and/or meters. Our subconscious can then take that information and integrate it with instruction of the biofeedback therapist. As mind and body integrate the "objective" information we are receiving from the biofeedback equipment with the "subjective" way we feel, we develop more conscious control over both physiological and psychological functioning.

Research repeatedly substantiates the benefits of this approach. In one study just released on the effectiveness of alternative methods of treatment, the National Institute of Health recommended biofeedback therapy for the treatment of muscle contraction headaches. Concurrently treating and teaching people to use approaches they will then "have" forever- to use at any time, any place - without further cost or side effects- is particularly appropriate to the philosophical and practical structure of health and integrative medicine today.

Biofeedback therapy is part of the movement towards participatory wellness. As we begin to see the wisdom and indeed the advantage of treatments and techniques that are anchored in learning what we can do, rather than relying only on what is done to us. Thus enabling us to take more control, more responsibility, for our own health, effectiveness, and well-being.

Christine Coolidge, RN, MA, CS, is a Clinical Specialist in Psychiatric and Mental Health Nursing, with a Masters degree in Health Psychology. Board certified in Pain Management and nationally certified Biofeedback and Stress Management, she has maintained practices in Hampton Bays and West Islip since 1980.

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