Biofeedback Journey

Have you ever tried biofeedback? During the first appointment with my Migraine specialist, he recommended biofeedback. I'd heard a little about it, but never looked into it or read too much about it.

Basically, biofeedback uses monitoring in order to train you to gain control over some of your involuntary processes. It is a way to improve your health by using signals from your body. They connect you to sensors that measure relaxation to produce reduced muscle tension and normalized blood flow.

Where do you start looking for someone to help you learn biofeedback? I started with the list of providers my insurance company had on their website. When I called, most of them had a full practice or a long waiting list. I put myself on a few of those lists, but no one ever called back. After going through the list a second time, I finally received a call back from one of the therapists.

During our conversation, he said he loved working with Migraine patients and I got excited until he said he even “cured” some Migraineurs. Ugh, I know there is no current cure for Migraines as it is a genetic neurological disease which needs much more research before a cure will be found. I let his red flag remark go because quite frankly, he was my only hope at the time and I figured I could learn what he had to teach.

All I can really say is that he was a unique therapist. During our sessions, he wanted me to stress myself out so he could show me how his monitoring programs worked. Warming is one of the exercises you do in biofeedback where you tape a stress thermometer to the end of your finger and try to make your fingertips warm up without rubbing them together or anything like that. As you relax, the blood flow should return to your fingers which will make its temperature rise. If you get scared or tense up, the blood should pull away from your extremities and make your finger temperature fall.

I let him know that there was a few times where my temperature rose quickly when I expected it to cool down. I joked that maybe my wires were crossed and he seriously considered that as an option and never discounted it. My final straw was when he kept talking about cures and causes despite me telling him there is currently no cure for Migraines and the cause is that it is a genetic neurological disease. He actually blew up at me a few times during our visit.

Needless to say, I never went back to him. Biofeedback is supposed to lower our stress; not increase it. I found myself again trying to find another therapist. I went back to the list of providers from my insurance company and basically received the same results as the first leg of my biofeedback journey. However this time while talking with one of the therapists, he told me about someone who could probably take me as she was just starting up her practice again. She had been in a very bad accident and was not able to work for a long time.

I talked several times on the phone to this new therapists and it seemed like we would really hit it off. As my first session started, I realized that I was her first and only patient. She purchased a few new biofeedback programs for her rekindling practice, but she didn't know how to use them. She would tell me that she practiced these programs before each session on either herself or some other family member.

I’m all about giving someone a chance to grow, learn and to help them, but it eventually got to the point where there was too much fumbling around and it was apparent she still didn't know how to use the equipment. There was also something in the back of my mind which she had mentioned during our first visit which always lingered warily with me.

During the first session, we went over my prior biofeedback experience. She couldn't believe some of the things that happened and said a therapist should never have a Migraineur purposefully stress themselves out. As we were talking, I could tell she was getting more and more intrigued about the therapist and she thought she might know him.

When I told her his name, she said that he actually learned biofeedback from her and he was very good back then. What were the odds of that happening? They were about 30 miles away from each other and she also said that they used to travel a lot together to go to biofeedback conferences. What really made my spidey senses tingle was when she started telling me personal things about him. He started having financial issues and he was in a very rocky marriage along with some other things that made me wonder if this was somehow unethical behavior on her part.

I really wanted to make this biofeedback stuff work. I’d already gone to about seven sessions between my two biofeedback attempts. My Migraine specialist expected me to follow his suggestions and I still felt like I really had not given it a proper try yet.

My third and last ditch effort was that I would make the trip to my doctor’s office where they provided biofeedback services. I figured they must know what they’re doing and that if this didn't work, it would never work. It takes about three hours each way for me to get to his office which is why I didn't start there in the first place. Luckily, we worked together so I could take double sessions when I went.

I have to tell you, going to a therapist that knows biofeedback and Migraines made such a big difference than trying to work with my first two therapists. I also confess that I tested her when I asked her if biofeedback could cure my Migraines.

She gave the right answer when she said there is currently no cure and went through the same speech I usually give. I asked her if my wires were crossed because my temperature would climb in situations when I would have expected it to fall. She told me stories of others who re-act the same way I do and how there were even studies done on people who would warm when they should have cooled. It made me feel like I wasn't so backwards or weird anymore.

My recommendation would be to go to someone who really knows what they are doing with both biofeedback and Migraines so you can learn peacefully from someone who understands. I always found biofeedback to be relaxing, but like many, I ended up moving away from practicing my biofeedback techniques.

Over the last few months, my blood pressure has been very high for me. I recently had another appointment with my Migraine specialist and I didn't want to have another high reading during my visit. I ended up practicing my biofeedback techniques on my whole drive down to my doctor’s office. I couldn't believe how low my blood pressure for this visit! Biofeedback really can help; it may not be a cure, but if it helps you at all, it’s worth the effort. I know I must get back to regularly practicing my biofeedback techniques as I proved to myself that it really can help some involuntary processes.

Have you tried biofeedback? What was your experience like? What kind of obstacles did you need to overcome during your journey?

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