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Biofeedback

Treatment Overview

Biofeedback is a way to control a body function that you normally don't control in a conscious way. These functions include skin temperature, muscle tension, heart rate, and blood pressure. It's done to improve a person's health and performance.

When you are first learning biofeedback, you may have sensors attached to your body and to a monitoring device. This provides instant feedback on a body function (for example, your skin temperature). The biofeedback therapist may teach you physical and mental exercises that can help you control the body function. The results are displayed on the monitor while you learn how to control that function. The monitor may beep or flash when you achieve the desired change in that body function. (For instance, you may raise your skin temperature or reduce muscle tension).

With practice, you can learn to use these techniques without the help of the feedback monitor.

Types of biofeedback include:

  • Heart rate variability (HRV). This measures the time between each heartbeat.
  • Electromyography (EMG). This measures muscle tension.
  • Thermal biofeedback. This measures the skin temperature of your hands.
  • Electroencephalography (EEG) or neurofeedback. This measures brainwave activity.
  • Electrodermal activity. This measures sweat gland activity.
  • Pneumography. This measures the movement of your chest and belly associated with breathing.

To learn biofeedback, you'll need to practice in a biofeedback lab or other setting. You can also try home feedback units and devices that you can wear.

Why It Is Used

Biofeedback may be used for many things, such as anxiety, depression, migraine headaches, tension headaches, incontinence, recovery after a stroke, sleep disorders, and stress. Using it may also help control long-term (chronic) pain.

Risks

Biofeedback is a safe procedure. It is most effective when taught by someone well trained in biofeedback techniques.

The sensors placed on the skin to measure a body function may irritate your skin.

Credits

Current as of: September 8, 2022

Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review:
Adam Husney MD - Family Medicine

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