Imagine being able to lower blood pressure or improve any number of health conditions ranging from urinary incontinence to migraines and even chronic pain simply by controlling the body with the mind? Biofeedback has been shown to help a variety of physical and mental challenges.
How It Works
Experts theorize that biofeedback's success is related to stress. Many of the ailments it has proven effective for are triggered or worsened by stress so learning to control it is key.
Biofeedback can focus on one or more techniques depending on the issue in question. Electromyography (EMG) biofeedback revolves around muscle tension, temperature or thermal biofeedback measures skin temperature, neurofeedback or electroencephalography records brain wave activity, galvanic skin response training uses the amount of sweat on the skin and heart rate variability biofeedback involves controlling the heart rate.
Often people work with a therapist in a healthcare setting. Sensors are placed on various parts of the body depending on the problem and type of biofeedback. These sensors then give responses from a monitor box in the form of a changing sound, varying brightness or line on a computer screen. The person undergoes a series of mental exercises that affect the feedback.
Individual sessions can vary from 30 to 60 minutes while the number is determined by how quickly a person masters control of his or her responses. People with headaches and incontinence often need at least 10 weekly sessions with follow up appointments while someone looking to control his or her blood pressure may need at least 20 before seeing improvement.
Another alternative is to use biofeedback at home. A variety of biofeedback options are available with many containing monitors along with audio and/or visual programs.
One of the main benefits of biofeedback is the ability to become more attuned with the body. Many people prefer treatment without using medications while others have found drugs haven’t successfully addressed their problem. Biofeedback can be a viable alternative to explore in these situations.
It has shown success in helping a variety of physical ailments ranging from asthma, constipation, high blood pressure and heart issues to headaches, irritable bowel syndrome, incontinence, Raynaud’s disease, and pain among others. It has also been useful in emotional issues such as anxiety, stress and depression.
Medically speaking biofeedback has been shown to be safe with no negative side effects.
However, as with any medical treatment, it’s important to seek a doctor’s advice and to find a qualified provider. Biofeedback practitioners can include doctors and nurses as well as psychiatrists and psychologists. To learn more and find a therapist near you, visit the website for the Association for Applied Psychology and Biofeedback at www.aapb.org
By learning to mentally control aspects of the physical body, people can use biofeedback to help treat a variety of physical and emotional ailments.
- The Association for Applied Psychophysiology and Biofeedback
- National Institutes of Health—Biofeedback