Biofeedback is a method that
uses the mind to help 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
Two types of biofeedback are:
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. 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.
Talk with your doctor about any complementary health practice that you would like to try or are already using. Your doctor can help you manage your health better if he or she knows about all of your health practices.
ByHealthwise Staff Primary Medical ReviewerAdam Husney, MD - Family Medicine
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