Biofeedback therapy uses technology to train patients to control their body’s functions with their mind. This is done through the use of electronic sensors that help you receive information about your body and can be used to control heart rate, muscle tension, and blood pressure. This type of therapy helps you learn how to tweak certain muscle actions that can help prevent urinary and fecal incontinence.

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How Biofeedback Therapy Works

“Biofeedback therapy works by helping patients overcome obstacles to understanding how to control muscles that they cannot see and may have difficulty feeling,” says Susan George, PT, DPT, MS, OCS, WCS, director, Women’s Rehab and Men’s Health, UPMC Rehabilitation Institute.

“Physical therapists use this educational tool as a way to teach muscle relaxation when stool expulsion is difficult or to teach muscle contraction when leakage of urine or stool is the problem. This visual and auditory feedback trains patients to control their own muscles while allowing the physical therapist to monitor their progress across a series of treatment sessions.”

When a patient with weak muscles begins biofeedback therapy, he or she may have no understanding of how the pelvic floor muscles work. You will learn how to identify the pelvic floor muscles through the use of electrodes that change electrical impulses into a line of color on a computer screen and enable you to see your muscles contract and relax. By repeatedly squeezing muscles and creating this electronic line of color, you’ll watch your muscles activate. Your physical therapist can then use this newfound knowledge to train you to regain control of your bladder or rectum.

Receiving feedback from your physical therapist and practicing pelvic muscle squeezes throughout the day, will eventually lead to you no longer needing biofeedback therapy since you’ll be able to independently manage your own continence.

Biofeedback therapy is a helpful tool to educate patients on how to activate unseen muscles critical to obtaining continence,” said Susan. “When performed successfully, patients can see the direct results on the monitor, which is helpful and encouraging in relearning a vital skill.”

RELATED: Pseudo Fecal Incontinence Treatment Options

Why Use Biofeedback Therapy?

Biofeedback therapy appeals to people for a variety of reasons. A physician might suggest biofeedback training as a component of physical therapy because it is noninvasive and can help the patient learn how to contract the pelvic floor muscles. It is an option for women who are pregnant. It is also an option when medications have not worked well, and overall, it helps people take control of their health.

For more information about physical therapy services, visit UPMC Rehabilitation Institute.

Editor's Note: This article was originally published on , and was last reviewed on .

About UPMC Rehabilitation Institute

The UPMC Rehabilitation Institute offers inpatient, outpatient, and transitional rehabilitation, as well as outpatient physician services so that care is available to meet the needs of our patients at each phase of the recovery process. Renowned physiatrists from the University of Pittsburgh Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, as well as highly trained physical, occupational, and speech therapists, provide individualized care in 12 inpatient units within acute care hospitals and over 80 outpatient locations close to home and work.