Biofeedback is a mind-body technique that trains people to improve their health by controlling certain involuntary bodily processes, such as heart rate, blood pressure, muscle tension, and skin temperature. Biofeedback is intended to help people learn more about how the body works and to measure the key body functions.
The greater the awareness you have of your physiological functions, the easier you can manipulate them and take the right actions for your personal development plan.
How Does Biofeedback Therapy Work?
In a normal biofeedback session, electrodes are attached to your skin. These electro-mechanical instruments help to monitor, measure, process and provide feedback information about the bodily processes such as blood pressure, muscle tension, heart rate, brain waves and other physiological functions.
Biofeedback machines can detect internal bodily functions with sensitivity and precision. They send information to a small monitor that translates the measurements into either a tone that varies in pitch, a visual meter that varies in brightness, or a computer screen that shows lines moving across a grid.
For example, when you’re under stress, the internal body functions change. Your heart rate speeds up, your muscles tighten, your blood pressure rises, you start to sweat, and your breathing quickens. You can see these stress responses as they happen on the monitor.
These audio and/or visual feedback signals give you greater awareness and voluntary control: First you learn to control the external signal and eventually, you learn to recognize and use internal cues.
The information obtained can facilitate treatment for a variety of disorders, while moving the patient toward a more balanced internal state.1
Different Types Of Biofeedback
The three most commonly used forms of biofeedback therapy are:
- Electromyography (EMG), which measures muscle tension.
- Thermal biofeedback, which measures skin temperature.
- Neurofeedback or electroencephalography (EEG), which measures brain wave activity.
What Health Concerns Is Biofeedback Used For?
Biofeedback is used to treat a wide variety of physical and mental health issues, including:
- ADD and ADHD
- Age-related cognitive decline
- Autism and Asperger syndrome
- Chronic fatigue syndrome
- Chronic pain
- Dissociative disorder
- Headache and migraines
- Lyme disease
- Parkinson’s disease
- Post-traumatic stress disorder
- Tourette syndrome2
The mechanisms of biofeedback treatment that help to treat the above mentioned health issues, can be illustrated with an example such as:
Biofeedback – Therapeutic Approach For Anxiety
There are several different underlying problems which cause abnormal levels of anxiety. Biofeedback helps each for different reasons.
Breathing problems which cause anxiety – Incorrect breathing patterns, such as breathing too rapidly with shallow breaths may increase anxiety in a person. These incorrect patterns are easily detected using psycho-physiological assessments and are corrected using several types of biofeedback related to helping people normalize their breathing patterns to alleviate anxiety.
Abnormal physiological response – Biofeedback treatments show patients, the abnormal physiological response levels when a person experiences greater levels of anxiety. This technique helps to assess the physiological reactions to anxiety. The patient can use this knowledge to identify the factors causing anxiety and to control it.
Similarly, following the same basic mechanisms, biofeedback therapeutic approach could be helpful in the treatment of the various health conditions as mentioned.
Relaxation Exercises Used In Biofeedback Therapy
Deep Breathing Exercises
- Progressive muscle relaxation – alternately tightening and then relaxing different muscle groups.
- Guided imagery – concentrating on a specific image (such as the color and texture of an orange) to focus your mind and make you feel more relaxed.
- Mindfulness meditation – focusing your thoughts and letting go of negative emotions.3
Biofeedback may help reduce or even eliminate the need for medication in certain conditions. It can also possibly improve conditions that have not responded to other types of therapy.
Biofeedback is considered safe with no negative side effects reported. However, it may not be for everyone. You should therefore, consult your primary care provider before starting this or any other type of complementary therapy.
|↑1||Biofeedback, University of Maryland Medical Center|
|↑2||Biofeedback in medicine: who, when, why and how?|
|↑3||Schwartz, Mark S. and Associates. Biofeedback: A Practitioner’s Guide. New York: Guilford, 1987|