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Stress affects us all. The deleterious effects of excess stress have been well documented in a wide range of medical publications. In fact the National Institute of Health reports that stress is a factor in 87% of all illness.
Thousands of research articles, studies and books prove beyond a shadow of doubt, that stress can be a factor in any disease, as it alters biochemistry and neurological functioning, and can weaken the immune system and the digestive tract.
This neuro-psychological-immuno link is well established in many peer reviewed medical journals on Psychoneuroimmunology.
Stress can trigger the body´s response to perceived threat or danger, the fight or flight response. During this reaction, certain hormones like adrenalin and cortisol are released, speeding the heart rate, slowing digestion, shunting blood flow to major muscle groups, and changing various other autonomic nervous functions, giving the body a burst of energy and strength. Originally named for its ability to enable us to physically fight or run away when faced with danger, it´s now activated in situations where neither response is appropriate, like in traffic or during a stressful day at work.
When the perceived threat is gone, systems are designed to return to normal function via the relaxation response, but in times of chronic stress, this often doesn´t happen, causing damage to the body if stress is not reduced and managed.
Common physiological changes resulting from stress reactions include:
Increased Heart Rate, which can lead and/or contribute to heart conditions. Hormonal Fluctuations, which can lead and/or contribute to endocrine, reproductive, digestive disorders, obesity, diabetes and mental disorders. Constriction of muscles and blood vessels can lead and/or contribute to pain, tension, circulatory issues, cardio-pulmonary issues and asthma. The suppression of non-essential life processes, which affects reproduction, higher executive brain function, digestion and immunity.
Many people think of stress only in terms of things like deadlines at work, family or relationship stress, financial pressures, traffic jams, or the death of a loved one perhaps. However, stress reactions also occur on the unconscious, cellular, subtle or energetic levels each time we are exposed to a toxin, pathogen or allergen; and every time our body experiences a nutritional deficiency or excess.
Everyone can benefit from biofeedback. Most people report biofeedback sessions to be relaxing, soothing and beneficial. Yucha and Montgomery (2008), in their article “Evidence Based Practice in Biofeedback and Neurofeedback” published in The Journal of Applied Psychophysiology and Biofeedback summarized the most current and complete medical research based on scientific rigor and consistency of outcome on biofeedback benefits and efficacy with the following health related issues.
Biofeedback, quite simply is any technique which takes a measurement of the body, and provides a result.
A scale can be said to be a biofeedback device that measures weight; a thermometer one that measures body temperature. We can measure factors of the body electric such as the voltage of the firing brain cells, the amperage of the heart muscle contractions, the voltage of the muscles and the resistance to the flow of electricity of the skin.
We can measure the oscillations of these factors and as seen by the EEG, ECG, EMG and GSR. The same technological theories that brought us biofeedback in the 1960´s, have also brought devices like the CAT Scan, MRI, TENS, ultra-sound, and many other sophisticated technologies to our healthcare systems.
The information measured with a biofeedback device is then “fed-back” to the client, informing them of various physiological parameters and stress responses within the body, and educating them about the need to retrain their body´s stress responses, balance the body electric, make lifestyle changes or learn to control physiological reactions, in order to achieve improved relaxation and better health overall.
Health Canada´s reference acknowledges its therapeutic aspects, and is perhaps the most indicative of its powerful potential, calling biofeedback “psychotherapeutic measures for non-pharmacologic interventions”.