Information from the Mayo Clinic defines biofeedback as a means of controlling your own body’s functions, such as your heart rate, by essential ling using your thoughts to control them. The technique, which involves physically connecting you with instruments reading your physical functions, is used to control involuntary functions rather than those that you consciously control.
Although the Mayo Clinic advises people to consult with their doctors before using biofeedback, it is generally considered safe. The Association for Applied Psychology and Biofeedback and the Biofeedback Certification Institute of America are considered useful in finding qualified biofeedback therapists.
During a biofeedback session, a therapist uses electrodes to attach monitoring devices to different parts of your body. The devices monitor your brain waves, body temperature, muscle tension and other functions using sound or visual cues to alert you of changes to your physiological state. You can then adjust your behavior or other permutations to in compliance with the cue to remedy the problem. For example, you can relax a set of muscles that the monitors tell you are too tense.
After a certain number of sessions, patients that have been trained by a biofeedback therapist can try using portable feedback devices at home. These include devices that can be connected to your computer. Sessions generally between 30 minutes and an hour. The number of sessions needed before you can do it at home will vary.
There are three commonly used forms of biofeedback, according to the University of Maryland. The first is electromyography, which measures muscle tension. The second one, thermal biofeedback, measures your skin temperature through monitors attached to your fingers or feet and is useful for developing relaxing techniques. The third one, electroencephalography, measures brain wave activity.
Mayo Clinic staff members describe two other types. One kind, galvanic skin response training, involves attaching sensors to the sweat glands is useful for monitoring anxiety. Another kind, heart rate variability biofeedback, assists patients in controlling their heart rate in order to improve blood pressure, breathing and stress levels.
According to the university, a common denominator among people treated successfully by biofeedback has been conditions related to or aggravated by stress. Biofeedback is not recommended against pain caused by temporary injuries, for example.
How Does Biofeedback Help Pain?
Sources state that biofeedback sis particularly useful for stress-related pain such as migraines or tension headaches.
According to a 1990 study, biofeedback was able to cut pain from migraines by 43 percent when combined with relaxation techniques. A 2007 review of 55 studies concluded it is effective against migraines. The American Pain Society reported in 2004 that thermal biofeedback was the best type to use against migraines. The organization stated that electrically-based biofeedback worked best against tension headaches.
According to a 2008 overview of 53 studies, biofeedback is potentially effective against tension-related headaches.
There are studies from 2005 suggesting that biofeedback may also ease the phantom limb pain associated with amputations and help cancer patients with pain.
Biofeedback can be expensive and not all insurances cover it. Anyone considering biotherapy is advised to check prices and coverage.