• When you raise your hand to wave hello to a friend, or
lift your knee to take another step on the Stairmaster,
you control these actions.
• Other body functions – like
heart rate, skin temperature, and blood pressure -- are
controlled involuntarily by your nervous system.
• You don't think about making your heart beat faster. It
just happens in response to your environment, like
when you're nervous, excited, or exercising.
• One technique can help you gain more control over
these normally involuntary functions.
• It's called biofeedback, and the therapy is used to help
prevent or treat conditions including migraine
headaches, chronic pain, incontinence, and high blood
• Biofeedback is the process of gaining greater
awareness of many physiological functions
primarily using instruments that provide
information on the activity of those same
systems, with a goal of being able to manipulate
them at will
• The idea behind biofeedback is that, by
harnessing the power of your mind and becoming
aware of what's going on inside your body, you
can gain more control over your health.
How Does Biofeedback Therapy Work?
• Researchers aren't exactly sure how or why biofeedback
works. They do know that biofeedback promotes relaxation,
which can help relieve a number of conditions that are
related to stress.
• During a biofeedback session, electrodes are attached to
your skin. These electrodes send signals to a monitor, which
displays a sound, flash of light, or image that represents
your heart and breathing rate, blood pressure, skin
temperature, sweating, or muscle activity.
• When you're under stress, these 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, and then get immediate feedback
as you try to stop them.
Several different relaxation exercises used in
• A biofeedback therapist helps you practice relaxation exercises, which you
fine-tune to control different body functions. For example, you might use a
relaxation technique to turn down the brainwaves that activate when you
have a headache.
• Several different relaxation exercises are used in biofeedback therapy,
• Deep breathing
• 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
• As you slow your heart rate, lower your blood pressure, and ease muscle
tension, you'll get instant feedback on the screen. Eventually you'll learn
how control these functions on your own, without the biofeedback
Different types of biofeedback are
used to monitor different body
• This measures muscle activity and tension. It
may be used for back pain,
headaches, anxiety disorders, muscle
retraining after injury, and incontinence.
• This measures skin temperature. It may be
used for headache and Raynaud's disease.
• This measures brain waves. It may be used for
attention deficit hyperactivity disorder
(ADHD), epilepsy and other seizure disorders.
Electrodermal activity (EDA).
• This measures sweating and can be used for
pain and anxiety.
Heart rate variability (HRA)
• This measures heart rate. It may be used for
anxiety, asthma, chronic obstructive
pulmonary disease (COPD), and irregular
• Each biofeedback therapy section lasts about
30 minutes. Usually, you can start to see
biofeedback benefits within 10 sessions or
less. Some conditions, such as high blood
pressure, can take 20 or more sessions to
Chronic pain. By helping you identify tight muscles and then learn to relax those muscles,
biofeedback may help relieve the discomfort of conditions like low back pain, abdominal pain,
temporomandibular joint disorders (TMJ), and fibromyalgia. For pain relief, biofeedback can benefit
people of all ages, from children to older adults.
Headaches. Headaches are one of the best-studied biofeedback uses. Muscle tension and stress
can trigger migraines and other types of headaches, and can make headache symptoms worse.
There is good evidence that biofeedback therapy can relax muscles and ease stress to reduce both
the frequency and severity of headaches. Biofeedback seems to be especially beneficial for
headaches when it's combined with medications.
Anxiety. Anxiety relief is one of the most common uses of biofeedback. Biofeedback lets you
become more aware of your body's responses when you're stressed and anxious. Then you can
learn how to control those responses.
Urinary Incontinence. Biofeedback therapy can help people who have trouble controlling the urge
to use the bathroom. Biofeedback can help women find and strengthen the pelvic floor muscles
that control bladder emptying. After several sessions of biofeedback, women with
incontinence may be able to reduce their urgent need to urinate and the number of accidents they
have. Biofeedback can also help children who wet the bed, as well as people with fecal
incontinence (the inability to control bowel movements). Unlike drugs used to treat incontinence,
biofeedback doesn't tend to cause side effects.
High Blood Pressure. Evidence on the use of biofeedback for high blood pressure has been mixed.
Although the technique does seem to lower blood pressure slightly, biofeedback isn't as effective as
medication for blood pressure control.
• Schwartz, M., ed., Biofeedback: A practitioner's guide, The
Guilford Press, New York: 1987
• Brown, B.B. Stress and The Art of Biofeedback, Harper &
Row, New York: 1977
• Fuller, G. D., Biofeedback: Methods and Procedures in
Clinical Practice, Biofeedback Institute of San Francisco, San
• Karavidas M. K., Lehrer P. M., Vaschillo E. G., Vaschillo B.,
Marin H., Buyske S. et al.(2007). "Preliminary results of an
open-label study of heart rate variability biofeedback for
the treatment of major depression". Applied
Psychophysiology and Biofeedback 32(1): 19–
30. doi:10.1007/s10484-006-9029-z. PMID 17333315.
MA PART 2