Biofeedback for Pelvic Floor Rehab?

As a pelvic floor physical therapy clinic, we always have questions from patients about using biofeedback during the rehabilitation process, so felt it was an appropriate time to blog about it!

What is biofeedback? 

Most of you have experienced biofeedback in your lifetime. Common examples include using a thermometer to read your body temperature, or stepping on a scale to get feedback on your body’s weight.

There are many types of biofeedback, but here we will explain a way that clinicians and patients can detect their body’s internal muscle response in far greater precision than a person can detect on their own.

Biofeedback is the measurement of how much muscle is firing during a contraction or resting period. The Cleveland Clinic defines biofeedback as “the process of gaining greater awareness of many physiological functions by primarily using instruments that provide information on the activity of those same systems with a goal of being able to manipulate them at will.”

At 5 Point, we use a biofeedback program on a computer or a hand held device. We choose internal or external sensors depending on what the client needs, and we use the program to measure pelvic floor muscle activity as well as abdominal muscle recruitment and/or gluteal muscle recruitment.

The theory is this: When the pelvic floor muscles are weak, they give off less feedback to our brains about the accuracy of our contractions. We often substitute other muscles, like the abdominals or gluts, to help make the contraction stronger.

Biofeedback is a great experience for patients because they can actually see, in real time, what the muscle is doing and at what level it is firing, right on the screen in front of them. If they are able to contract the muscle, they may see the level rise on the screen. Then by using nervous system quieting techniques, you may be able to see the muscle tone lower.

Research shows that biofeedback can increase efficacy of pelvic floor muscle function and bladder re-training, and has better results when used in conjunction with manual therapy techniques that include appropriate strengthening and stretching exercises. However, when biofeedback is solely used for muscle up-training or down-training within the pelvic floor and no other interventions,

Biofeedback is applicable when these diagnoses pop up:

  • Bladder incontinence or urgency
  • Constipation
  • Fecal incontinence
  • Erectile dysfunction
  • Pelvic pain

Blog Post by Physical Therapist Erica Azzaretto