Biofeedback Trains Mind, Body to Make Changes
Migraines, ADHD, high blood pressure, epilepsy, and incontinence can all benefit from the technique of biofeedback. Part 1 of a 4-part series on alternative medicine.
Neurofeedback is a form of biofeedback that is being used to treat children
with ADHD. "In the last five to 10 years, data is beginning to emerge
showing this to be a very promising new treatment," Baskin tells WebMD.
"I think it's going to gradually become the standard of care for ADD and
ADHD. Training sessions are getting shorter, equipment is getting better, and
combined with very good therapy, the data [on effectiveness] is looking very
One study found an improvement in impulsiveness, inattention and functioning
in school after 40 neurofeedback sessions combined with teaching
"Biofeedback can not only help a child use brainwaves they don't usually
employ, but it may also help increase blood flow to specific parts of the brain
involved with ADHD," said Joel Lubar, PhD, a psychologist at the University
of Tennessee, Knoxville, in a previous interview. Lubar developed the ADHD
treatment in the 1970s.
"Used with behavior therapies that incorporate classroom and homework
skills, neurofeedback can help these children become less dependent on
stimulants like Ritalin," Lubar told WebMD.
Biofeedback is also being used to help treat depression, addiction, bipolar
disorder, and schizophrenia.
Medicare has recently approved biofeedback training for urinary and fecal
incontinence treatment in elderly men and women. "Incontinence is the No. 1
reason why people are placed in long-term care facilities," Baskin tells
WebMD. "Through biofeedback, elderly people can learn something similar to
Kegel exercises -- contracting and controlling bladder and bowel muscles. The
data on effectiveness is fairly spectacular. And they can learn it in a
doctor's office. A lot of urology practices are doing it now."
For people with diabetes, stress can wreak havoc with a variety of hormones
that affect blood sugar control. Through biofeedback and relaxation exercises,
it's possible to reduce this stress reaction, research shows.
Neurofeedback is helping epilepsy patients reduce the frequency of their
"In people with epilepsy, part of the brain has become unstable, and
occasionally it triggers the rest of the brain into seizure," explained
Siegfried Othmer, PhD, an Encino, Calif., physicist who trains biofeedback
therapists, in a previous interview. Neurofeedback may help stabilize those
circuits and reduce the occurrence of seizures.
Bottom Line: There's Help Out There
Many psychologists, professional counselors, social workers, and other
health care professionals are trained in biofeedback, neurotherapy,
neurofeedback, and EEG biofeedback. The Association for Applied
Psychophysiology & Biofeedback has more information about this therapy and
about finding a good practitioner. Also, The Biofeedback Certification
Institute of America can help you find a certified and licensed
Published Jan. 24, 2005.
Medically updated March 2006.