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Q.

What is biofeedback and how can it help me with pain management?

 

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A.

Biofeedback is a method used to raise a person’s awareness of physical processes that the body usually controls on its own. A computer is used to take measurements of your body’s functioning. It tracks things like blood pressure, heart rate, skin temperature, sweat gland activity, or muscle tension. The computer also shows you the information it is gathering in real-time as a picture or a sound. You can then use the feedback from the computer to build skill in controlling your body’s state in ways that may be helpful. For instance, muscle tension can be a problem for people with chronic pain. Learning to relax specific muscles can be helpful. Learning to do this may be easier if you have computer feedback about the tension in that area. Similarly, we know that anxiety can make pain feel worse. So, a person with pain might use biofeedback to learn to control physical aspects of anxiety. This, in turn, may help decrease the problems with physical pain.

Basically, biofeedback is a way to learn helpful skills. Ideally these skills allow people with pain to become actively involved in their own treatment. While biofeedback may be helpful, it is important to know that it requires special technology. As a result, it can be costly. Depending on which skills you and your care provider think you need there may be less expensive ways of learning the same thing.

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