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.
Migraines and other headaches: continued...
Tension headaches, caused by tightened head muscles, also quiet down when
biofeedback is used to relax those muscles, he adds.
"In times of high stress, or when they have a feeling of a headache
coming on, hand warming and relaxation will decrease the eventuality of having
a headache -- or at least one that's not as severe," says Baskin.
Studies show that a combination of medication and biofeedback has greater
effect than either treatment alone, he says. Also, recent data have shown that
long-term relief for migraine sufferers is better with biofeedback. In that
study, a group trained in biofeedback had much lower recurrences of migraines,
fewer hospitalizations, and lower cost of treatment since they could cut back
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."