Skip to content
Font Size
A
A
A

Overview of Biofeedback

When you raise your hand to wave hello to a friend, or lift your knee to take another step on the Stairmaster, you control these actions. Other body functions -- like heart rate, skin temperature, and blood pressure -- are controlled involuntarily by your nervous system. You don't think about making your heart beat faster. It just happens in response to your environment, like when you're nervous, excited, or exercising.

One technique can help you gain more control over these normally involuntary functions. It's called biofeedback, and the therapy is used to help prevent or treat conditions, including migraine headaches, chronic pain, incontinence, and high blood pressure.

Recommended Related to Fitness & Exercise

Mind Over Putter: The Mental Golf Game

The mind is the most formidable opponent a golfer confronts, so mastering the game of mental golf is essential. The mind can be a golfer's best friend, helping to develop the mechanics of a smooth, reliable swing and devising clever strategies for moving the ball efficiently from the tee to the cup. But the mind also produces anxiety and tension, which can tighten the muscles and destroy concentration. Suddenly the technically proficient golfer is slicing the ball deep into the woods and choking...

Read the Mind Over Putter: The Mental Golf Game article > >

The idea behind biofeedback is that, by harnessing the power of your mind and becoming aware of what's going on inside your body, you can gain more control over your health.

How Does Biofeedback Therapy Work?

Researchers aren't exactly sure how or why biofeedback works. They do know that biofeedback promotes relaxation, which can help relieve a number of conditions that are related to stress.

During a biofeedback session, electrodes are attached to your skin. Finger sensors can also be used. These electrodes/sensors send signals to a monitor, which displays a sound, flash of light, or image that represents your heart and breathing rate, blood pressure, skin temperature, sweating, or muscle activity.

When you're under stress, these functions change. Your heart rate speeds up, your muscles tighten, your blood pressure rises, you start to sweat, and your breathing quickens. You can see these stress responses as they happen on the monitor, and then get immediate feedback as you try to stop them. Biofeedback sessions are typically done in a therapist's office, but there are computer programs that connect the biofeedback sensor to your own computer.

A biofeedback therapist helps you practice relaxation exercises, which you fine-tune to control different body functions. For example, you might use a relaxation technique to turn down the brainwaves that activate when you have a headache.

Several different relaxation exercises are used in biofeedback therapy, including:

  • Deep breathing
  • Progressive muscle relaxation -- alternately tightening and then relaxing different muscle groups
  • Guided imagery -- concentrating on a specific image (such as the color and texture of an orange) to focus your mind and make you feel more relaxed
  • Mindfulness meditation -- focusing your thoughts and letting go of negative emotions
1 | 2 | 3

Hot Topics

WebMD Video: Now Playing

Click here to wach video: Dirty Truth About Hand Washing

Which sex is the worst about washing up? Why is it so important? We’ve got the dirty truth on how and when to wash your hands.

Click here to watch video: Dirty Truth About Hand Washing

Popular Slideshows & Tools on WebMD

disciplining a boy
Types, symptoms, causes.
psoriasis
Does your kid have symptoms?
fruit drinks
Eat these to think better.
No gym workout
Moves to help control blood sugar.
acupuncture needle on shoulder
10 tips to look and feel good.
Close up of eye
12 reasons you're distracted.
Epinephrine Injection using Auto-Injector Syringe
Life-threatening triggers.
woman biting a big ice cube
Habits that wreck your teeth.
embarrassed woman
Do you feel guilty after eating?
pacemaker next to xray
Treatment options.
caregiver with parent
10 tips for daily life.
birth control pills
Which kind is right for you?

Pollen counts, treatment tips, and more.

It's nothing to sneeze at.

Loading ...

Sending your email...

This feature is temporarily unavailable. Please try again later.

Thanks!

Now check your email account on your mobile phone to download your new app.

Women's Health Newsletter

Find out what women really need.