he term "mind over matter" has taken on a whole new meaning since biofeedback therapy has moved onto the medical horizon. Biofeedback allows individuals to take control over bodily processes normally considered involuntary
by training them to use signals from their own bodies. Physicians at Winthrop-University Hospital's Institute for Digestive Disorders have begun practicing the technique to treat a variety of gastrointestinal disorders from pelvic pain to bowel incontinence.
Dr. Kongara explains how biofeedback works to a new patient.
Kavita Kongara, MD, Director of the Women's Health Support Center for Gastroenterology at Winthrop explained that "Biofeedback is a behavioral technique that provides information about an individual's body and its functions. It has been shown to be up to 70% successful in some studies of patients for the treatment of fecal incontinence and constipation."
A specialist in digestive disorders, Dr. Kongara started biofeedback therapy at Winthrop to treat chronic constipation and bowel incontinence without invasive surgical procedures. "In gastroenterology, there is an underserved population of women and the elderly who complain about fecal incontinence and constipation," explained Dr. Kongara. "We teach these patients how to retrain the muscles of the rectum and anal sphincter through biofeedback therapy so that they function properly."
Fecal incontinence in women is often caused by an injury to the rectal muscle resulting from the stress
of childbirth. Constipation, which affects close to four
million Americans, is a result of abnormal coordination
of the rectal muscles which causes the sphincter to
spasm and tighten.
Before a patient begins biofeedback, a special motility test called anorectal manometry is performed to measure the strength of the sphincter and rectal muscles. Once the extent of damage to these muscles is determined, biofeedback therapy can be considered an option.
|"What makes biofeedback therapy so successful is the fact that it becomes a way of life, something patients can
practice on their own continually."
– Dr. Kongara
During the therapy session, a patient observes their own muscle response to exercises through signals that are displayed visually on a monitor. A patient can then see which muscles are working properly and which ones are not. The physician can then teach the individual how to change the muscle response to achieve the control
needed to remedy their condition.
"Through biofeedback, our patients re-learn which muscles they need to use and which muscles are inhibiting their ability to control their bodily functions," added Maureen Stampee, RN, Motility Coordinator. "We also teach our patients relaxation techniques and exercises that focus on strengthening rectal and stomach muscles."
Dr. Kongara added that, "the key to the success of the therapy is in the patient's upkeep of the exercises at home and in between appointments. What makes biofeedback therapy so successful is the fact that it becomes a way of life, something patients can practice
on their own continually."
Since the inception of its biofeedback program less than one year ago, the Women's Health Support Center for Gastroenterology has seen tremendous growth. "We recently had our first patient complete the program," said Dr. Kongara. "She now has complete relief from her constipation. Where conventional methods like diet and fiber therapy failed her, biofeedback has improved her quality of life."
For more information on biofeedback therapy
in Winthrop's Institute for Digestive Disorders, call 516-663-2066 or 1-516-663-0333.