Biofeedback is a method that
uses the mind to control a body function that the body normally regulates
automatically, such as skin temperature, muscle tension, heart rate, or
When you are first
learning biofeedback, you will have sensors attached to your body and to a
monitoring device. This provides instant feedback on a body function (for
example, your skin temperature). The biofeedback therapist will then teach you
physical and mental exercises that can help you control the function. The
results are displayed on the monitor while you learn how to control that
function. The monitor beeps or flashes when you achieve the desired change in
that body function (such as increasing skin temperature or reducing muscle
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Electromyography (EMG). This type of biofeedback
uses a device that measures muscle tension while you practice a relaxation
technique, such as meditation, progressive muscle relaxation, or
Peripheral temperature or hand temperature biofeedback. This type of biofeedback uses a device that measures the skin
temperature of your hands while you try to increase it, often through
visualization or guided imagery. For instance, you may listen to a tape that
stirs images of blood flowing to your hands. Increasing blood flow to the hands
makes the hands warmer.
Learning biofeedback requires several sessions in a
biofeedback lab or other setting. Most people can have success with biofeedback
by the time they complete 12 sessions. Home feedback units are also available.
With practice, many people may be able to learn to influence their muscle
tension or blood flow without the help of the feedback monitor.
What is biofeedback used for?
People most often use
biofeedback to control problems related to
stress or blood flow, such as headaches,
high blood pressure, and sleep disorders. Using it may
also help control long-term (chronic) pain.
Is biofeedback safe?
Biofeedback is a safe
procedure. It is most effective when taught by someone well-trained in
The sensors placed on the skin to measure
a body function may irritate your skin.
Always tell your doctor if
you are using an alternative therapy or if you are thinking about combining an
alternative therapy with your conventional medical treatment. It may not be
safe to forgo your conventional medical treatment and rely only on an
Primary Medical Reviewer
Adam Husney, MD - Family Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer
Marc S. Micozzi, MD, PhD - Complementary and Alternative Medicine
June 29, 2011
WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise
June 29, 2011
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor.
Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this