Ärzte Zeitung online, 20.11.2008

Biofeedback Relieves Neck Pain

Neck and shoulder pain, and other symptoms too, can be alleviated in the long term using biofeedback. Patients train certain muscle groups and can follow the effects on muscle tone on a screen.

Biofeedback Relieves Neck Pain

Per Oberflächen-Elektromyografie lassen sich Muskelspannungen messen und auf einem Bildschirm sichtbar machen. Surface electromyography is used to measure muscle tension and plot the values on a screen. Photo: sbra

By Wolfgang Geissel

Surface electromyography (sEMG) is used to measure muscle tension and plot the values on a screen. The electrodes for taking the measurements are placed on the skin. "The principle is similar to that for recording an ECG from the heart muscle," says Dr Maximilian Meichsner, a practice-based orthopaedist from Bad Tölz in southern Germany. Existing muscular dysbalances and increased muscle tone can be located using surface EMG biofeedback and shown to patients in a visible form. With the visual feedback, the patients can learn to use selected parts of their musculature. For example, they can use relaxation techniques to reduce increased muscle tone, or activate and strengthen certain weakened muscles again, for example after an operation.

Neck pain frequently occurs as a result of incorrect posture

Dr Meichsner uses the procedure successfully in patients with neck and shoulder pain. These symptoms very frequently occur as a result of incorrect posture while working at a computer screen, for example. Targeted training for the shoulder muscles - for instance to relieve the load on the upper trapezius muscle by active use of the lower trapezius - relieves the pain. Once the patient has learnt the principle of the training with the help of the EMG biofeedback on the screen, he can continue the exercises at home without biofeedback. "In this way patients learn how to deal with their problems in the long term," Meichsner says. The procedure is not as suitable for patients with very acute symptoms, he adds. He uses biofeedback when, after history and examination, conventional procedures such as physiotherapy or manual therapies have failed. After an initial EMG examination, three biofeedback sessions of about 20 minutes are generally sufficient. However, ten sessions may be necessary if the symptoms are persistent, and in rehabilitation. Studies have shown the efficacy of the method, Meichsner says. For example, in the case of neck and shoulder pain, the symptoms were reduced for a distinctly longer period of time by biofeedback in comparison to physiotherapy.

SinfoMed, www.sinfomed.de

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