Biofeedback is a
technique you can use to learn to control your body's functions,
such as your heart rate. With biofeedback, you're connected to
electrical sensors that help you receive information (feedback)
about your body (bio).
This feedback helps you focus on making subtle changes in your body,
such as relaxing certain muscles, to achieve the results you want,
such as reducing pain. In essence, biofeedback gives you the power
to use your thoughts to control your body, often to improve a health
condition or physical performance.
Types of biofeedback
Your therapist might use several different biofeedback methods.
Determining the method that's right for you depends on your health
problems and goals. Biofeedback methods include:
type of method uses scalp sensors to monitor your brain waves
using an electroencephalograph (EEG).
respiratory biofeedback, bands are placed around your abdomen
and chest to monitor your breathing pattern and respiration
Heart rate. This
type of biofeedback uses finger or earlobe sensors with a device
called a photoplethysmograph or sensors placed on your chest,
lower torso or wrists using an electrocardiograph (ECG) to
measure your heart rate and heart rate variability.
method of biofeedback involves placing sensors over your
skeletal muscles with an electromyography (EMG) to monitor the
electrical activity that causes muscle contraction.
Sweat glands. Sensors
attached around your fingers or on your palm or wrist with an
electrodermograph (EDG) measure the activity of your sweat
glands and the amount of perspiration on your skin, alerting you
attached to your fingers or feet measure your blood flow to your
skin. Because your temperature often drops when you're under
stress, a low reading can prompt you to begin relaxation
You can receive biofeedback training in physical therapy clinics,
medical centers and hospitals. A growing number of biofeedback
devices and programs are also being marketed for home use,
Interactive computer or mobile device programs. Some
types of biofeedback devices measure physiological changes in
your body, such as your heart rate activity and skin changes, by
using one or more sensors attached to your fingers or your ear.
The sensors plug into your computer.
Using computer graphics and prompts, the devices then help you
master stress by pacing your breathing, relaxing your muscles
and thinking positive thoughts. Studies show that these types of
devices might be effective in improving responses during moments
of stress, and inducing feelings of calm and well-being.
Another type of biofeedback therapy involves wearing a headband
that monitors your brain activity while you meditate. It uses
sounds to let you know when your mind is calm and when it's
active to help you learn how to control your stress response.
The information from each session can then be stored to your
computer or mobile device.
Wearable devices. One
type of wearable device involves wearing a sensor on your waist
that monitors your breathing and tracks your breathing patterns
using a downloadable app. The app can alert you if you're
experiencing prolonged tension, and it offers guided breathing
activities to help restore your calm.
The Food and Drug Administration has approved a biofeedback device,
Resperate, for reducing stress and lowering blood pressure.
Resperate is a portable electronic device that promotes slow, deep
Origins of Biofeedback
Neal Miller, a psychology Ph.D and neuroscientist who worked and
studied at Yale University, is generally considered to be the father
of modern-day biofeedback. He came across the basic principles of
biofeedback when doing animal experimentation conditioning the
behavior of rats. His team found that, by stimulating the pleasure
centers of the rats' brains with electricity, it was possible to
train rats to control phenomena ranging from their heart rates to
their brainwaves. Until that point, it was believed that bodily
processes like heart rate were under the control of the autonomic
nervous system and not responsive to conscious effort.