EMG biofeedback (electromyograph biofeedback) is the process in which the muscle activity of a person is recorded through electronic devices while also allowing the patient to see or hear this activity. By linking together medical testing with a patient’s cognitive awareness of how and when his or her muscles react to different stimuli, doctors and researchers hope that patients can learn how to control and strengthen muscles that act abnormally due to disease or injury. The process is most commonly used to treat diseases such as anxiety, spinal cord injures, multiple sclerosis (MS), and other ailments that preclude an individual from having sufficient muscle control.
The procedure involves placing surface electronic sensors over a patient’s muscles. These sensors detect activity in the skeletal muscles, which are those closest to the bones. That data is then transmitted back to the feedback machine. The doctors record the movement of the muscles that are acting abnormally as well as those that are healthy in order to compare the different behavior. The electric sensors will also track the electrical activity of both sets of muscles when they are at rest. The report that results is known as an electromyogram.
While the test is being conducted, the patient will be able to watch or listen to how the muscles are or aren't working. They are typically asked to pay closest attention to how their muscles respond to stress, anxiety, or tension. Doing this may help the patient learn how adapt his or her behavior to avoid abnormal muscle behavior. Most often, EMG biofeedback is offered in conjunction with physical therapy to help the patient have more control over and strengthen their muscles.
Intramuscular EMG testing is another type of test that is somewhat similar to EMG biofeedback. In this particular test, thin needles are inserted into the patient to track electric activity in muscles. The intramuscular EMG test, however, does not incorporate the cognitive element of surface EMG biofeedback. That is, patients do not get immediate feedback on how their muscles respond to stress.
EMG biofeedback is usually employed to thoroughly diagnose and treat neurological, neuromuscular, and stress-related problems, such as multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, spinal cord injuries, anxiety, and chronic migraines. The procedure is also used in research laboratories that study biomechanics, motor control, neuromuscular physiology, movement disorders, and physical therapy. Intramuscular EMG testing, however, is usually more helpful in these departments than surface EMG biofeedback.