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What is biofeedback?

Biofeedback is a mind-body method. It uses monitoring devices to help a person control certain body functions. These functions normally can't be controlled voluntarily. They include:

  • Blood pressure

  • Heart rate

  • Heart rate variability

  • Body temperature

  • Breath control

  • Muscle tension

  • Sweating

  • Feelings linked to stress, anxiety, and pain

  • Some symptoms linked to attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)

The idea of controlling body functions with the mind is not new. Many Eastern philosophies are based on the belief that meditation and visualization can help to do this. Yoga is one example.

Today many types of biofeedback tools are available. They show how well the therapy is working as it is being done. They can also be used to watch the progress of the activity.

Biofeedback is most often used with tools that measure:

  • Blood pressure

  • Brain waves

  • Breathing rate

  • Heart rate and heart rate variability

  • Muscle tension

  • Skin conductivity of electricity

  • Skin temperature

First a person is hooked up with electrodes to electronic equipment. Then their breathing rate, perspiration, skin temperature, blood pressure, and heartbeat are measured. The results are shown on a computer screen. Certain devices are used to measure each body change, including:

  • Electromyogram (EMG). This is used to measure muscle tension.

  • Electrodermal activity (EDA). This measures changes in perspiration rate.

  • Finger pulse measurements. These measure blood pressure and heartbeat.

  • Electroencephalogram (EEG). This is used to measure electrical activity in the brain.

In addition, both the rhythm and volume of breathing are measured.

After the body signals are recorded, a biofeedback technician or computer feedback may advise physical and mental exercises to gain control. Biofeedback technicians are trained and nationally certified.

Biofeedback works best with reducing stress and helping with relaxation. Experts are also studying if it may help with certain conditions. These include urinary incontinence, migraines, and other headaches.

Tell all of your healthcare providers (conventional or complementary) about the health approaches, supplements, and medicines you use. This will give them a full picture of your health. It will help ensure safe, effective, and coordinated care.

Online Medical Reviewer: Bianca Garilli MD
Online Medical Reviewer: Daphne Pierce-Smith RN MSN CCRC
Online Medical Reviewer: Marianne Fraser MSN RN
Date Last Reviewed: 2/1/2019
© 2000-2021 The StayWell Company, LLC. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.