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 Migraines/Headaches

    Ocular Migraine Symptoms and Diagnosis

    In 50% of cases, ocular migraines cause temporary and dramatic visual disturbance. In the other half of cases, ocular migraines can cause lesser vision disturbances such as: Blurring Partial vision loss Scotomas, or a blank spots in your vision Dimming Flashes of light Ocular migraines are usually brief, lasting less than five minutes. However, they can last up to 30 minutes. Forty-one percent of people have a headache during the vision loss. Twenty-five percent have it before...

    Read the Ocular Migraine Symptoms and Diagnosis 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.
    fruit drinks
    Eat these to think better.
    embarrassed woman
    Do you feel guilty after eating?
    diabetes supply kit
    Pack and prepare.
    Balding man in mirror
    Treatments & solutions.
    birth control pills
    Which kind is right for you?
    Remember your finger
    Are you getting more forgetful?
    sticky notes on face
    10 tips to clear your brain fog.
    Close up of eye
    12 reasons you're distracted.
    woman biting a big ice cube
    Habits that wreck your teeth.
    apple slices with peanut butter
    What goes best with workouts?
    Pink badge on woman chest to support breat cancer
    Myths and facts.

    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.