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Overview of Biofeedback

How Does Biofeedback Therapy Work? continued...

Thermal. This measures skin temperature. It may be used for headache and Raynaud's disease.

Neurofeedback or electroencephalography (EEG). This measures brain waves. It may be used for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), epilepsy and other seizure disorders.

Electrodermal activity (EDA). This measures sweating and can be used for pain and anxiety.

Heart rate variability (HRA). This measures heart rate. It may be used for anxiety, asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), and irregular heartbeat.

Each biofeedback therapy section lasts about 30 minutes. Usually, you can start to see biofeedback benefits within 10 sessions or less. Some conditions, such as high blood pressure, can take 20 or more sessions to improve.

 

Biofeedback Uses

Biofeedback can help many different conditions. Here is a rundown of some biofeedback benefits:

Chronic pain. By helping you identify tight muscles and then learn to relax those muscles, biofeedback may help relieve the discomfort of conditions like low back pain, abdominal pain, temporomandibular joint disorders (TMJ), and fibromyalgia. For pain relief, biofeedback can benefit people of all ages, from children to older adults.

Headaches. Headaches are one of the best-studied biofeedback uses. Muscle tension and stress can trigger migraines and other types of headaches, and can make headache symptoms worse. There is good evidence that biofeedback therapy can relax muscles and ease stress to reduce both the frequency and severity of headaches. Biofeedback seems to be especially beneficial for headaches when it's combined with medications.

Anxiety. Anxiety relief is one of the most common uses of biofeedback. Biofeedback lets you become more aware of your body's responses when you're stressed and anxious. Then you can learn how to control those responses.

Urinary Incontinence. Biofeedback therapy can help people who have trouble controlling the urge to use the bathroom. Biofeedback can help women find and strengthen the pelvic floor muscles that control bladder emptying. After several sessions of biofeedback, women with incontinence may be able to reduce their urgent need to urinate and the number of accidents they have. Biofeedback can also help children who wet the bed, as well as people with fecal incontinence (the inability to control bowel movements). Unlike drugs used to treat incontinence, biofeedback doesn't tend to cause side effects. 

High Blood Pressure. Evidence on the use of biofeedback for high blood pressure has been mixed. Although the technique does seem to lower blood pressure slightly, biofeedback isn't as effective as medication for blood pressure control. 

Other biofeedback uses include:

  • Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
  • High blood pressure
  • Raynaud's disease
  • Injury
  • Asthma
  • Constipation
  • Epilepsy
  • Rheumatoid arthritis

 

Getting Started With Biofeedback Therapy

Many different health care providers offer biofeedback therapy, including psychiatrists, psychologists, and general physicians. To find a qualified biofeedback provider in your area, contact an organization like the Association for Applied Psychophysiology & Biofeedback.

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by David Kiefer, MD on May 30, 2014
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