Biofeedback In Winston-Salem by Dr. Blake Kovner, ND
“By processing information from the environment through the senses, the nervous system continually evaluates risk. I have coined the term neuroception to describe how neural circuits distinguish whether situations or people are safe, dangerous, or life-threatening. Because of our heritage as a species, neuroception takes place in primitive parts of the brain, without our conscious awareness.”
― Stephen W. Porges, The Polyvagal Theory: Neurophysiological Foundations of Emotions, Attachment, Communication, and Self-regulation
Based on the work of Stephen Porges and his Polyvagal Theory, Biofeedback Training with Dr. Blake is a patient-centered, non-passive program that strengthens the perceivable mind-body connection.
Biofeedback is a technique you can use to learn, understand and be responsive to
what your body is trying to say to you.
Clinically, Biofeedback is applicable in issues surrounding:
heart rate variability
dis-regulated stress responses.
Well-executed, repeatable research on Biofeedback has revealed its utility in markedly decreasing symptoms the following conditions by supporting the Central Nervous System and the process of neuroception:
high blood pressure
tension and migraine headaches
diseases of the blood vessels
pain without an obvious physical cause
multiple chemical sensitivity
pelvic floor dysfunction
Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)
occupational cramps (writer’s, painter’s or musician’s cramps)
and symptoms caused by neurodegenerative diseases such as Multiple Sclerosis and Parkinson’s Disease.
By helping you become more aware by paying attention on purpose.
Heart Rate Variability
“HRV is simply a measure of the variation in time between each heartbeat. This variation is controlled by a primitive part of the nervous system called the autonomic nervous system (ANS). It works regardless of our desire and regulates, among other things, our heart rate, blood pressure, breathing, and digestion. The ANS is subdivided into two large components, the sympathetic and the parasympathetic nervous system, also known as the fight-or-flight mechanism and the relaxation response.
The brain is constantly processing information in a region called the hypothalamus. The hypothalamus, through the ANS, sends signals to the rest of the body either to stimulate or to relax different functions. It responds not only to a poor night of sleep, or that sour interaction with your boss, but also to the exciting news that you got engaged, or to that delicious healthy meal you had for lunch. Our body handles all kinds of stimuli and life goes on. However, if we have persistent instigators such as stress, poor sleep, unhealthy diet, dysfunctional relationships, isolation or solitude, and lack of exercise, this balance may be disrupted, and your fight-or-flight response can shift into overdrive.” – Marcelo Campos, MD
Heart rate variability: A new way to track well-being from the Harvard Health Blog
The sensations we associate with safety, comfort and well-being tend to be warm, relaxed/heavy and calm. Autogenics literally means “self-generated” and so it is a self-generated desensitization-relaxation technique. Like the results of any training program, over time the neuropathways involved whose neurons are firing together begin to wire together allowing the person to achieve calmness, relaxation and inner peace with greater and greater ease. The VA has a great page with more info.
The roots of Physical Medicine modalities such as Chiropractic and Osteopathic Manipulative Techniques are intertwined with those of Biofeedback. Postural training employs the theory that optimal and ergonomic body positioning allows for decompression of the spine and peripheral joints. This creates space for blood vessels and lymphatic channels to maximally expand so that their contents can flow efficiently supplying oxygen and nutrients to tissues and carrying away toxins and metabolic waste products. In my practice, postural training is at the root of drug-free pain therapy which contributes to the fight against opioid over-prescription, addiction, misuse and death, all of which are on the rise.
Helen Bradley and Joseph Esformes put it eloquently in the following excerpt from their peer-reviewed article entitled, BREATHING PATTERN DISORDERS AND FUNCTIONAL MOVEMENT:
Breathing mechanics play a key role in posture and spinal stabilization. Breathing Pattern Disorders (BPD) have been shown to contribute to pain and motor control deficits, which can result in dysfunctional movement patterns… Individuals with poor posture,scapular dyskinesis, low back pain, neck pain and TMJ pain exhibit signs of faulty breathing mechanics. Thoracic breathing is produced by the accessory muscles of respiration (including sternocleidomastoid, upper trapezius, and scalene muscles), dominating over lower rib cage and abdominal motion. Over‐activity of these accessory muscles have been linked to neck pain, scapular dyskinesis, and trigger point formation. Vickery suggested that decreased abdominal motion, relative to upper thoracic motion, confirms poor diaphragm action. The diaphragm is the key driver of the respiratory pump with attachments onto the lower six ribs, xiphoid process of the sternum, and the lumbar vertebral column (L1‐3). Hodges et al. stated that since the diaphragm performs both postural and breathing functions, disruption in one function could negatively affect the other.
Progressive Muscle Relaxation
Progressive muscle relaxation is a non-pharmacological method of deep muscle relaxation. Based on the premise that muscle tension is the body’s psychological response to anxiety-provoking thoughts, PMR allows the blockade of neuropathways and molecules associated with anxiety. This is where the Therapeutic Alliance and the body scan come together. As the trainee relaxes the muscles that they identify internally as being tense, invariably certain muscle groups will be more difficult to relax and people often experience concurrent emotional discomfort as they attempt to release their tension. Unpacking the emotional piece of their somatic/body tension requires a trusting relationship with their provider and so it is imperative to this treatment that the trainee feels that the space they are in is one that is safe and healing.
It isn’t what you think! It is maintaining an absence of thinking by allowing your mind to focus on the breath flowing in and out, counting the number of breaths you get to before a thought carries your attention away and then engaging in non-judgmental, non-labeling return to the task at hand. It’s a practice in being kind to yourself when you inevitably become distracted and gaining more and more time in-focus rather than out.
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