2007 Volume 34 Issue 2 Pages 17-21
In recent years, medical and other healthcare professionals have increasingly focused on mind-body interaction, to gain understanding of mechanisms underlying physiological symptoms and illnesses. Availability of ambulatory biofeedback equipment in conventional practice, along with growing evidence to support the efficacy of the "heart-rate variability biofeedback (HRV-BF)" technique, has led to an increased interest in collaborative research projects. Researchers, previously unfamiliar with biofeedback techniques, are forming alliances to treat and control various physical symptoms with psycho-physiological methods. At the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey, our team, in collaboration with other departments and universities, has investigated HRV-BF in treatment of asthma, major depression, fibromyalgia and inflammation. In the course of a decade, our studies have consistently produced positive findings, with promising effects on symptoms and illnesses that lack adequate medical treatments. A high number of near-fatal traffic accidents in the State of New Jersey results in spinal cord injury (SCI). In many SCI cases above Th4-5, the trauma is associated with Autonomic Dysreflexia (AD), a syndrome characterized by a sudden surge of sympathetic activity and an abrupt onset of high blood pressure (200/100mmHg or greater). If not treated promptly and effectively, it may lead to seizures, stroke, heart attacks and even death. The effectiveness of anti-hypertensive medications commonly used to control symptoms of AD is limited. In our most recent project, we used HRV-BF to treat AD in patients with SCI. HRV-BF may be an affordable, safe, and effective way to manage AD symptoms. Our preliminary findings provide support for the safe use of HRV-BF in AD.