Biofeedback: How it can improve your pelvic symptoms
Biofeedback translates your body’s internal functions onto a screen or into sound. It makes you conscious of your body's processes and helps train your body to correct them.
·October 7th, 2021
Biofeedback is one physical therapy technique that uses sensors to make you conscious of muscles and their movements that would otherwise be difficult to perceive.
Pelvic floor muscles, located deep within your core are often difficult to consciously control, so adding biofeedback to pelvic exercises can help you see progress faster.
Pelvic floor biofeedback can be used to address a range of menstrual conditions: dysmenorrhea, pain with sex, incontinence, and even constipation.
Sound Cycle’s pelvic floor physical therapist search can help you find a provider for biofeedback and other forms of physical therapy that may be helpful to you.
Menstrual health conditions can cause a lot of chronic pain, both due to your period and at other times, like during sex or urination. They also carry symptoms that are harder to talk about, ranging from constipation to incontinence. Often, medication or surgery are used to treat persistent symptoms of menstrual health conditions.
But they don’t have to be the only treatment– complementary or integrative therapies can be used in conjunction with or, in some cases, in place of other care. Physical therapy is one such treatment. While the practice of physical therapy is most often associated with orthopedic injuries, pelvic floor physical therapists use a range of techniques to help address reproductive, digestive, or urinary medical conditions in the pelvic floor.
Biofeedback is one such treatment–read on to learn more.
What is biofeedback?
Biofeedback uses sensors and other monitoring devices to give you insight into what’s happening inside your body. By translating your body’s internal functions onto a screen or into a sound, biofeedback makes you conscious of processes that might otherwise be unconscious, and helps you train your body to correct them.
Biofeedback can provide information about your muscle tension, blood pressure, heart rate, skin temperature, or even brain waves. Many studies have shown that biofeedback can be a valuable part of the pelvic floor physical therapy and rehabilitation process, to address both pelvic pain and dysfunction.
In biofeedback for the pelvic floor, sensors are placed around your pelvis and abdomen to reveal information about how your internal muscles are contracting and relaxing. While connected to the sensors and under the guidance of a trained physical therapist or biofeedback therapist, you’ll perform a series of exercises targeting muscles in and around the pelvic floor. Muscle activity is displayed live on a screen or with a series of sounds, so you can understand which muscles are engaging and how you’re flexing them throughout the exercise.
Because your pelvic floor muscles are buried internally in your body, it’s hard to feel and track how they’re working at any given time. As a result, many people can experience dysfunction in the form of incontinence, bloating, or constipation. For others, adopting pelvic relaxation techniques guided by biofeedback can help counter existing pain caused by dysmenorrhea, endometriosis, or other menstrual health conditions.
A biofeedback session typically lasts about half an hour, and a full course of treatment might include 4-8 weekly or biweekly sessions complemented by at-home exercises. Biofeedback is a training program, so improvement is often seen over a single course of treatment.
If you think pelvic floor biofeedback could be helpful for you, reach out to a physical therapist with pelvic floor expertise today.
What symptoms and conditions can biofeedback help treat?
Biofeedback training has been shown to improve pelvic floor function and reduce pain, and can address a range of symptoms you might be experiencing, including:
Additionally, pelvic floor biofeedback has been shown to be effective treatment for symptoms caused by the following conditions:
PCOS, which often causes pelvic floor dysfunction and its associated symptoms
Endometriosis or adenomyosis, which cause pain throughout the menstrual cycle. Endometriosis treatment often requires surgery, but pelvic floor physical therapy may be a non-surgical route to consider or to use in conjunction to reduce pain.
Pelvic floor biofeedback may also be effective treatment for those who have recently given birth and are experiencing postpartum pelvic floor impacts.
What types of biofeedback are there?
Biofeedback is not a monolithic treatment, and different techniques and technologies can help address different symptoms. Some of the most common types of biofeedback technologies include:
Electromyograph (EMG): Electrodes are placed on the surface of muscles to monitor action potentials associated with muscle contraction. Sensors may be placed internal to the vaginal opening, or contained purely externally.
Perineometer: A perineometer is used to monitor pelvic floor muscle contraction, often associated with Kegel or similar exercises, when inserted into the vagina. Recently, a few perineometer devices have launched in the consumer market for at-home use.
Manometer: A manometer is a thin tube placed within the rectum to monitor contractions of the anal sphincter.
Vaginal weights and cones: Weighted vaginal cones can be worn for up to 30 minutes at a time while performing daily activities. Biofeedback is simple–if the cones fall out, more training is required. As cone retention improves, cones of increased weight are adopted.
Pelvic floor biofeedback provides one potential route to reducing menstrual pain and tackling bothersome symptoms. If you’re experiencing these symptoms and are interested in trying pelvic floor physical therapy or biofeedback, reach out to your doctor or seek out a biofeedback practitioner or a physical therapist with pelvic floor expertise for more information.