Learn to Relax Using EMG and Temperature Biofeedback
Stressors are events that challenge you to cope. When you perceive that stressors have overwhelmed your resources, you may experience an unpleasant state called distress. Researchers have shown that each individual has a unique physiological response pattern to stressors like arguments and traffic jams. This is called your response stereotypy. Chronic distress may produce powerful physiological changes that threaten your health and disrupt your performance. Relaxation is an antidote for the stress response.
What is relaxation?
Johan Stoyva and Thomas Budzynski proposed that relaxation is a state of “cultivated low arousal.” Relaxation training teaches you to achieve a state of calm alertness in which you reduce physiological arousal due to stressors to improve your health and performance.
How can biofeedback teach you to relax?
Biofeedback devices measure your body’s moment-to-moment changes and display this information back to you. A biofeedback therapist can monitor you during mild stressors, like mental arithmetic during a biofeedback stress test, to identify your unique response stereotypy. Then, during relaxation training your clinician can display the responses that were most affected by stress to help you increase your awareness and control of your depth of relaxation.
Stress management biofeedback can play an important role in relaxation training by defusing your personal stress triggers. Biofeedback clinicians often utilize EMG and temperature biofeedback instruments to enhance relaxation training.
What is EMG biofeedback therapy?
EMG biofeedback is also called surface EMG (SEMG) biofeedback. Biofeedback electrodes placed over your skeletal muscles record the minute electrical signals that cause skeletal muscles to contract. The EMG is named for the electromyograph, which monitors signals as small as one-millionth of a volt, which is called a microvolt.
Which muscles are monitored?
Biofeedback providers often monitor several muscles at once to provide a more complete picture of your muscle activity. Common placement sites include the:
Which assumptions underlie EMG training?
Several important assumptions in EMG training are:
- Poor posture can increase the contraction of skeletal muscles from your lower back to your neck.
- You should completely relax your muscles after you contract them.
- Chronic pain patients unconsciously learn to continuously brace their muscles, which can trigger or worsen their pain.
- Chronic pain patients have poor awareness of their muscle bracing and require training to discriminate between tense and relaxed muscles.
- Chronic pain patients cannot rapidly and completely relax postural muscles after they have contracted them.
What can EMG biofeedback teach you?
EMG biofeedback instructions can help you discriminate between muscle contraction and relaxation to increase your muscle awareness and control. Personal biofeedback training methods can help you balance left and right muscle contraction, relax tense muscles, and strengthen weak muscles. Biofeedback training methods can teach you to relax tense muscles that contribute to headache, jaw grinding, low back pain, neck and shoulder pain, and stress. Biofeedback clinical trials have demonstrated that EMG biofeedback can help treat chronic pain, high blood pressure, and stress.
What is temperature biofeedback therapy?
Temperature biofeedback measures blood flow changes in the small blood vessels of your fingers and toes. Biofeedback practitioners use two types of biofeedback equipment to monitor blood flow. A feedback thermometer uses a miniature thermometer, called a thermistor, to measure skin temperature. Alternatively, a photoplethysmograph (PPG) uses sensors placed on your fingers to detect pulse waves generated by your heart’s pumping action. Larger waves mean that more blood is flowing through a digit.
Which skin locations are monitored?
Biofeedback clinicians often monitor multiple sites on the hands and feet to ensure that hand-warming is generalized and not limited to one digit.
Which assumptions underlie temperature biofeedback?
Important temperature training assumptions include:
- When some individuals become distressed, they constrict their small arteries or arterioles and their digits cool down. When they relax, their arterioles dilate and their digits warm up.
- Hand-warming and hand-cooling are controlled by separate mechanisms and involve different skills.
- Hand-warming is promoted by passive volition, in which you allow your hands or feet to warm, instead of forcing them.
- Patients learn to warm and cool their hands using individualized strategies.
What can temperature biofeedback teach you?
Temperature biofeedback can help you recognize when you are cooling your extremities so that you can rapidly warm them. Hand-warming can relax you so that you can better manage stress. Biofeedback clinical trials have shown that temperature biofeedback can help treat chronic pain, high blood pressure, migraine, Raynaud’s disease, stress, and swelling.
How many biofeedback training sessions will you need?
The number of biofeedback sessions will depend on the problem you want to treat, its severity, the presence of other disorders, your unique physiology, how quickly you learn, and how often you practice. In general, pain management biofeedback for episodic problems like headache may require from 5-15 one-hour sessions.
Is there insurance coverage for biofeedback?
Reimbursement for biofeedback varies with insurance provider and location. Psychologists may bill biofeedback services as psychotherapy to increase the likelihood of reimbursement.