The detection of biomarkers, physical indications of what is occurring in the human body, can help diagnose, treat, and even prevent a range of conditions. In biofeedback, sensors or electrodes are used to analyse biomarkers, and the user learns to control their body’s response, for instance by breathing or relaxation techniques. Here are seven ways biofeedback devices can keep you safer, healthier and happier.
- Early warning systems
The onset of some conditions, like asthma, and of potentially life threatening incidents like an epileptic fit, or hypoglycaemia in diabetes, can be detected before the sufferer is aware there may be a problem, with monitoring systems and greater awareness of physical indicators and their significance. Appropriate action can then be taken to prevent or mitigate the effects of an attack, and the sufferer can, if necessary, take precautions like sitting down or contacting a friend for help.
Biofeedback techniques give their users a better understanding and greater awareness of their own bodies. The effects of breathing exercises and muscle relaxation can not only ease or counteract conditions as diverse as migraine and irritable bowel syndrome, but have a calming effect on mind and body. This, in turn, can bring a number of mental and physical health benefits, including better digestion, relief from stress, and lower blood pressure.
- Better mental health
Mental and physical relaxation techniques can be used on their own or as part of a therapy programme to help with conditions related to mental health, including depression and anxiety. In addition, the ability to detect and deal with medical issues as they arise, or even before they do, allows the user to feel in control, which can prevent or greatly lessen the feelings of tension or low mood often associated with other medical problems.
- Drug free, non invasive solutions
Biofeedback devices can reduce the need for drugs, or even replace them entirely. This can mean a reduction in or elimination of the side effects associated with many drugs, as well as the need to carry medication and remember to take it. Biofeedback may be used as a first line treatment in, for example, incontinence, constipation and other bowel problems, providing an alternative to surgery or other invasive procedures. New methods of testing and monitoring are being developed which move away from blood samples to tests for chemical components which can be performed without breaking the skin.
- Convenient and portable
There are a number of ways to take both biomarker detection and biofeedback help with you. Devices to detect physical indicators, like insulin levels, sweat, temperature and heart rate, are becoming small and light enough to be carried in a pocket or even worn like a watch. You may even own one already. Many smartphones can monitor heartbeat and breathing rate. Mobile healthcare apps take advantage of this built in technology to help initiate and maintain biofeedback routines.
- Adaptable monitoring systems
Biofeedback techniques can be adjusted to suit the needs of an individual, often much more easily than drug dosages can be changed. This may involve working with the advice of a professional, often by keeping a journal and discussing strategies. An app can also chart the frequency and effectiveness of biofeedback, allowing the user to discover what works for them and tailor their routine accordingly. Apps can be designed to inspire, motivate and reward, encouraging healthy behaviours. By collecting data, users can start to spot patterns in their condition, and, where possible, avoid situations likely to trigger problems.
- Gives back control
By providing simple yet effective techniques to bring mental and physical problems under control, and giving sufferers the means to detect, understand and overcome their medical conditions, biofeedback empowers users to take back the sense of control that is often missing from the lives of people with chronic conditions. Biofeedback users may regain the confidence to take part in activities they once enjoyed, like participating in sport, going out for a meal, or travelling. Conditions from anxiety to incontinence can limit the options of sufferers, but biofeedback techniques can help to broaden horizons again.