Biofeedback is a way to control a body function that you normally don't control in a conscious way, such as skin temperature, muscle tension, heart rate, or 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 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 (such as increasing skin temperature or reducing muscle tension).
With practice, a person 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). EMG 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.
Learning biofeedback requires practice in a biofeedback lab or other setting. Home feedback units and devices that can be worn are also available.
Biofeedback may be used for many things, including anxiety, depression, headaches (migraine and tension-type), incontinence, recovery after a stroke, sleep disorders, and stress. Using it may also help control long-term (chronic) pain.
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.
Current as of: January 3, 2022
Author: Healthwise Staff
Adam Husney MD - Family Medicine