Pelvic floor control helped by biofeedback8th November 2011
Problems relaxing pelvic muscles, which affect up to 10% of children, can be treated using new biofeedback techniques, according to a recent Iranian study.
The researchers used a new technique known as animated biofeedback, in which children played computer games that required them to tighten and relax pelvic muscles in sequence with animations of dolphins and monkeys.
The games can be played at home, giving the children an opportunity to cure themselves without having to visit the doctor.
Problems relaxing pelvic muscles can be caused by diet, as well as by ideas that excretions need to be held in.
Sometimes adjusting a child's diet can cause the problems to go away, but in other cases the child's lack of muscle control is almost impossible to treat.
Steve Hodges, a paediatric urologist from Wake Forest Baptist Medical Centre in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, who was not involved in the study, said that people normally needed to relax their pelvic muscles in order to urinate, but that children with pelvic muscle problems tightened their muscles as a reflex.
He said that a parent or doctor could not simply tell a child to relax his or her pelvic floor, since these were muscles the child did not know how to control.
The technique may help children who have chronic urinary tract infections, are constipated, or who wet their pants or their beds.
For the study, the researchers randomly assigned 80 children with bladder problems to one of two groups.
One group of children had a lesson about diet and behaviour changes that might make their symptoms improve.
The other group got between six and 12 sessions of animated biofeedback.
More that three-quarters of the children were girls, most of them about nine years old.
Most of the children with bed-wetting problems who got animated biofeedback stopped wetting the bed.
A large number of children who had problems with constipation also stopped having problems.
In both cases, symptoms also eased in the group which received education about diet and behaviour, but to a lesser degree.
William Whitehead, a researcher at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in the US, who was not involved in the current study, said the recent study showed the technique was very useful in children and adolescents.
He said that the success of using animated games had to do with the limited attention span and poor motivation of children and adolescents in general.
In the US, a single biofeedback session costs about $100 (£62).
Whitehead, who has used the technique to treat adults with constipation, said that adults receiving the treatment usually watched a drawing or heard sounds that reflected their relative levels of relaxation and tension.
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