Biofeedback is a type of therapy that uses sensors attached to
your body to measure key body functions. Biofeedback is intended to help you
learn more about how your body works. This information may help you to develop
better control over certain body functions and address health concerns.
Biofeedback is built on the concept of “mind over matter.” The
idea is that, with proper techniques, you can change your health by being
mindful of how your body responds to stressors and other stimuli.
Chronic stress can have dramatic effects on your body. This may include
elevated blood pressure, increased body temperature, and disruption of brain
function. By promoting a more effective mental and physical response to stress,
biofeedback aims to help you control body processes like your heart rate and
blood pressure. These body processes were once thought to be completely
The three most common methods of biofeedback include:
- electromyography (EMG) biofeedback: measures
muscle tension as it changes over time
- thermal or temperature biofeedback: measures
body temperature changes over time
- electroencephalography: measures brain wave
activity over time
Other types of biofeedback include:
- galvanic skin response training: measures the
amount of sweat on your body over time
- heart variability biofeedback: measures your
pulse and heart rate
Purpose of Biofeedback
Biofeedback is aimed at combating stress through relaxation
techniques. You consciously manipulate your breathing, heart rate, and other
usually “involuntary” functions to override your body’s response to stressful
Biofeedback appears to be most effective for conditions that are
heavily influenced by stress. Some examples include: learning disorders, eating
disorders, bedwetting, and muscles spasms.
Biofeedback may be used to treat numerous physical and mental
health issues, including:
- irritable bowel syndrome
- side effects from chemotherapy
- high blood pressure
- Raynaud’s disease
- chronic pain
- stress or anxiety
Some people prefer biofeedback as a form of treatment for these
conditions because it’s noninvasive and doesn’t rely on medications. Other
people pair biofeedback with more traditional treatment options to improve
Be sure to check your biofeedback therapist’s credentials before
starting therapy. You may want to ask about their training and whether or not
they accept your health insurance. State laws regulating biofeedback
practitioners vary. Check your own state’s regulations before visiting a
No further preparation is required for a biofeedback session.
Electrical sensors that connect to a monitor will be hooked up to
your body. The sensors measure one or more signs of stress. This can include heart
rate, muscle tension, or body temperature. The measurements provide feedback
about how your body responds to different stimuli.
A biofeedback therapist can teach you how to lower your heart
rate through breathing exercises, relaxation techniques, and mental exercises.
You can measure the results of these techniques and exercises on the monitor.
This encourages more positive reactions and relaxation.
A typical biofeedback session lasts between 30 and 60 minutes.
The number of sessions needed to resolve an issue will vary depending on a
number of factors, including how quickly you learn to control your physical
There are also commercial biofeedback devices available on the
open market that are meant for home use. There are devices with handheld
monitors and others that connect to your computer. However, you should be
careful of scams. Be sure to check with your primary care provider before
purchasing one of these devices. Not all manufacturers are reputable.
The Mayo Clinic reports
that biofeedback is generally safe. There have been no negative side effects
reported. However, biofeedback may not be for everyone. You should consult your
primary care provider before starting this or any other type of complementary therapy.
You Can Expect
Your therapist will help determine which biofeedback technique is
right for you, based on your health issues. The success of biofeedback therapy
depends on several factors, such as how often you use the techniques you learn
during therapy in your daily life.