What is biofeedback?
Biofeedback is a non-invasive approach which utilizes self-control as a way to effectively deal with stress; the method works by training your mind to control your body’s response to stress. Biofeedback is often used to treat a variety of conditions, from headaches to chronic pain.
Stress-related disorders are found to be the most responsive to biofeedback training. Conditions such as migraines, tension headaches, digestive disorders, anxiety, insomnia, Raynaud’s disease, hypertension, jaw/teeth grinding, and chronic pain disorders may be effectively treated.
How biofeedback works
During a biofeedback session, the physician or therapist will apply several sensors to different areas on your body. These sensors monitor your body’s physiological response to stress, which allows you to become mentally aware of your body’s changes.
By visualizing your body’s physiological changes on a monitor, biofeedback enables you to recognize these changes and learn to control them. The method is similar to that of positive reinforcement. When one of the parameters changes, you either hear (auditory) or see (visual) changes on a monitor, which gives you feedback. You begin to associate your body’s response with certain physiological functions. By monitoring these changes, you become aware of your body’s stressors, and when that happens, a biofeedback therapist helps you to discover methods that correct the negative responses to stress and illness that your body produces.
Biofeedback therapies commonly measure:
- Brain activity: An electroencephalogram (EEG) monitors the activity of brain waves during different mental states and responses to certain conditions.
- Blood pressure: Your blood pressure can often dramatically rise when faced with stressful conditions.
- Muscle tension: Electromyography (EMG) measures muscle tension. EMG is used to promote the relaxation of those muscles involved in back pain, neck pain, headaches, and certain conditions that are responsive to stress such as ulcers
- Heart rate: Your heart rate typically increases requiring more oxygen when you face a stressful situation.
- Skin temperature: Because body temperature drops when the body is under stress, a low change in temperature can alert you to begin relaxation techniques. Temperature biofeedback can help treat certain circulatory disorders, like migraines.
- Sweat production: Galvanic skin response measures the activity of your sweat glands on your skin. This response can be directly influenced by emotional disorders such as phobias and anxiety.