Sunday, January 29, 2012

Can’t Wait to be Cured!

As I was doing some of my research on biofeedback, I talked to one of the prospects who does biofeedback for Migraine patients. He made the comment that he loves when Migraine patients call him. That took me by surprise so I told him I hear of people running away from Migraineurs as they don’t know how to treat us or get frustrated by their lack of results. He became excited again and explained that he has great success with many Migraine patients and even cures some!

Alright, alright, I know there is no cure for Migraines. It is a genetic neurological disease for which there is no cure for yet which is why we need more research. By the way, have you and everyone you know signed the petition to urge Congressional hearings on the impact of Migraine and headache disorders yet? We only need about 20,000 more signatures! Please sign and help spread the word.

I know I need to give biofeedback a fair shot for different reasons. Although I’m apt to say I need to try it because my Migraine specialist ordered it for me, the truth also is, like I was telling my sister the other week, is that I don’t know how to relax. I know I have an outward appearance of being relaxed, but I feel like I’m always on the alert. Besides if it could possibly help me control some of my Migraines, then it is worth the try. However, I do have an alternate motive too. I have planned my first real vacation in a very long time and I want to be able to relax during this busy vacation where I am going to want to do everything. 

I enjoy watching other people even if they are in the process of observing others themselves. As I started my first biofeedback appointment, it was funny to watch Mr BFB (Biofeedback) while actually viewing me. I sat in the chair and naturally crossed my legs. By his reaction, I knew I shouldn’t do that, but it was also exactly what he wanted me to do. I played along and besides, I wanted to cross my legs so I kept them that way. I figured I would let him teach me my lesson when he was ready. 

I had some paper and a pen with me so I could write everything down to review again later. He said when people get tense, their hands and feet will get cold. He asked how I could warm my hands if I couldn’t rub them together or sit on them. I had to find another way. 

He wants me to purchase a stress thermometer so I can practice hand warming every day at home. He proceeded to strap his stress thermometer onto my finger. After about 30 seconds, we got a baseline hand temperature for me. 

Mr BFB said if the base hand temperature is 90o F or above, that we would need to warm our hands by 2o. If it is below 90o F, then we need to raise our hand temperature by 5o. He mentioned that some master type people, who typically meditate or do yoga, can actually get their temperatures up to 97oor even 98o. 

He let me know it could take some practice to warm our hands by the 5o in the beginning, but we would get there even if it didn’t happen during this first session. I honestly wasn’t very concerned as he kept talking and my hand temperature kept plummeting. 

When I do my daily hand warming, he wants me to keep track of the time, the baseline temperature, incremental temperatures and any other significant notes. These notes can be if I’m listening to a CD at the time of the hand warming, if I’m experiencing a Migraine at the time, the beginning Migraine level, the ending Migraine level, if it is a particularly stressful day and just anything notable.  As all of this was going on, my temperature kept going down more.

He tried some type of stimulator on my brain since, of course, I had a Migraine going on. This stimulator has two stick like devices that are held on opposite sides of your head so that the sticks are in a straight line as if they went through your head.  It is moved around your head in this same fashion for short durations of time.  Do you think this is a bit freaky as I do, that he tried this stimulator on himself to show me how it was done and displayed great pleasure? 

Anyway, this stimulator was weird and cool at the same time. It would shoot electrical like currents through your brain. I could see flashes and hear crackling noises while feeling little jolts. I was just trying to visualize it hitting the Migraine. He said these currents are supposed to retrain the neurotransmitters. Ok. By the end, my Migraine was knocked down one level. I think he was disappointed that it wasn’t gone.

Mr BFB told me he loves when his patients come in with full blown Migraines so this machine will zap away their Migraines. Sometimes they will even go down to a zero. I am really trying to keep an open mind with everything and still need to understand all of this. Even if I can learn little things to help, it should be worth it, right? I think so. 

A lot of people with Migraines have pain that starts in their necks. As far as I know, mine never start there. As soon as he used these stimulators on my neck area, the whole stimulator thing stopped working even after he switched it to a higher level. He thought it was weird that the higher setting did nothing for me after that either.

Next we went back to the hand warming. Guess what the first thing he mentioned to me to do was? Of course uncrossing my legs! Then he told me about sitting up straight, making sure my hands were below my heart, that my hands were comfortable, in the same position each time I warm my hands and that my shoulders are not tensed up. As soon as all of that was done, my hand temperature started going up. He made other adjustments and the temp went up further.

Mr BFB did more talking. He was chatting about sympathetic and parasympathetic parts of the nervous system and how we want to use the parasympathetic part more. When I looked it up after, the sympathetic part is “fight or flight” while parasympathetic is “relaxation or slowness”. So yes, parasympathetic makes a lot of sense when you’re trying to relax. 

Once the pain starts, the sympathetic system goes into overload. Supposedly, biofeedback can lower your heart rate, decrease muscle tension and help you gain control over pain. Success in biofeedback sessions is measured by changes in intensity levels, volume, or speed of signals from machines they use, when thoughts and actions result in the action in the change of involuntary responses (like hand temp or heart rate).

Since my hand temperature kept going up, he made a joke that maybe he should tape his voice for me to listen to when warming my hands on my own. After I giggled, I said that maybe writing with the wrong hand helps too. That immediately threw him off where he apologized and said he should have strapped the thermometer to my other hand, but because of the way I picked up my pen and paper with the ‘wrong’ hand he assumed I was the other handedness. I didn’t look, but I’m sure that would have increased my temp even further. We couldn’t switch hands at that point; it would have thrown off this whole experiment.

Next, we went over stomach breathing. This is where if you put your hand on your stomach, you should be able to watch your hand go up and down while your chest, and definitely your shoulders should not move at all. This is how babies naturally breathe and only learn to breathe the wrong way as they get older by watching and imitating us stressful adults. As I did my stomach breathing, my hand temperature kept going up.

All in all, my temperature went up over the 5o from my baseline mark which would have been significantly higher than the lowest recorded temperature during the session. 

As Mr BFB was wrapping everything up, he reminded me that he wants me to practice warming my hands every day. I had to ask if this ‘hand warming’ was just the teaching of my body to relax which is where the blood flow would end up going down to the tips of my fingers and toes where in the end, would warm them up. I think he liked that correlation. 

This was my first experience, my first session and my observations around biofeedback. I don’t know if biofeedback will help reduce my Migraines or decrease their intensity, but I do know that I need to learn to relax and get some of my stress/tension levels under better control. If biofeedback will help me do some of that, then it can be considered somewhat of a success. Next session will be skin conductance.

Have you tried biofeedback? Did it work for you? Did it help reduce the number of Migraines you experiences? Your intensity levels? Did it help you relax? How long ago did you try it? Do you still find it useful today?

No comments: