Skip to content

Information and Resources

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 Children

Personality Clues for Teenagers

Have you ever wondered how your personality traits might determine the choices you make? And how these traits affect your satisfaction with your choices? Here's your chance to find out. Read the following scenarios and mark the one that best describes you: Scenario 1 _______I feel strung out most of the time. Each night before bed I look at my calendar and start feeling anxious, dreading the next day. I have insomnia many nights, just thinking about all the things I have to do. Somehow...

Read the Personality Clues for Teenagers 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

man rubbing painful knee
Causes, warning signs.
feet
Solutions for 19 types.
acupuncture needle on shoulder
Live and thrive.
couple kissing
What do you know about locking lips?
lone star tick
How to identify that bite.
woman standing behind curtains
How it affects you.
brain scan with soda
Tips to avoid complications.
disciplining a boy
Types, symptoms, causes.
man with problem
Symptoms, causes, treatments.
woman dreaming
What Do Your Dreams Say About You?
two male hands
Understanding RA.

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.