What is biofeedback?

Biofeedback is a mind-body approach that uses special monitoring devices to help you gain more control over certain body functions. Most often, the body functions that biofeedback targets are those that are not typically under voluntary control, such as:

  • Blood pressure

  • Heart rate

  • 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. Guided imagery and yoga are just two examples of this approach.

Today, different types of biofeedback tools are available. Many use high-tech gadgets or "wearables" that help give feedback to the person practicing the biofeedback methods. They can show how well the therapy is working as it is being done in real time. These tools are often used by the therapist and the patient to watch and track 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

To do this, you first connect yourself to the gadget or put it on. Then your breathing rate, perspiration, skin temperature, blood pressure, or heartbeat are measured. The results are shown on a screen. Certain devices are used to measure different body changes. These include:

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

  • Electrodermal activity). 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.

The rhythm and volume of breathing can also be measured.

After the body signals are recorded, a technician will use computer feedback to suggest physical and mental exercises to gain control. Biofeedback technicians are trained and nationally certified.

Biofeedback works best with reducing stress and helping with relaxation. It's being studied to see if it may help with certain other conditions. These include urinary incontinence, migraines, and other types of headache.

Tell all of your healthcare providers about the health approaches, supplements, and medicines you use. This will give them a full picture of your health. It will help make sure of safe, effective, and coordinated care.

Online Medical Reviewer: Bianca Garilli MD
Online Medical Reviewer: Heather M Trevino BSN RNC
Online Medical Reviewer: Marianne Fraser MSN RN
Date Last Reviewed: 3/1/2023
© 2000-2024 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.