b i o f e e d b a c k

What Is Biofeedback?
Biofeedback is a psychotherapy technique that uses electronic equipment to measure and "feed back" information about activity in the human body. The goal of biofeedback therapy is to help you develop awareness and control of your body and mind. You can then use that control to improve and maintain physical and mental health. Biofeedback is painless, rarely produces side-effects, and can be done at the same time as other forms of treatment. 

What Is Biofeedback Used For?
Biofeedback is used to treat many common medical conditions. These include muscle tension headaches, migraine/vascular headaches, irritable bowel syndrome, high blood pressure, urinary and fecal incontinence, and chronic pain. It is also used for treatment of anxiety disorders (phobias, panic, OCD), and as part of stress management therapy. 

What Kinds of Biofeedback Will Be Used?
I use use four types of biofeedback in my practice. Electromyographic (EMG) feedback measures changes in the electrical activity of muscles and helps you to learn how to produce deep muscle relaxation. Skin temperature feedback helps to produce overall relaxation of the mind and body by measuring changes in finger temperature. When you become more relaxed, the blood vessels in the hands and fingers open up more. This allows more blood to flow and more heat to radiate out. Heart rate variability feedback measures subtle changes in heart activity that can help you learn to reduce activity in the parts of the brain that cause stress and anxiety. Neurofeedback is a specialized form of biofeedback that involves feedback of brain wave activity. Please refer to my neurofeedback page for more information. 

The type of biofeedback that you will use will depend on the condition being treated. If you have muscle tension headaches you would use EMG feedback to learn how to reduce tension in the muscles that cause headaches. Treatment of migraine headaches or high blood pressure, both of which involve the blood vessels, would include skin temperature and heart rate variability feedback. The brain wave abnormalities that are common in people with ADD/ADHD are treated with neurofeedback. Treatment of anxiety disorders can use one or more of the four feedback modalities described above. 

A Typical Biofeedback Session
Biofeedback therapy sessions generally last about 45 minutes. You will be sitting in a comfortable chair to help you relax during the session. Depending on the kind of feedback being used, one or more sensors will be placed on the surface of our skin. For example, if you are being treated for muscle tension headaches EMG sensors might be placed on your forehead or neck. You will sit in front of a computer monitor which shows a video display that is controlled by the biofeedback equipment. A training goal is set for each session. You might be trying to make electrical activity in facial muscles go below three microvolts or work towards getting your hand temperature to go above 90 degrees. 

As part of your biofeedback therapy you may be asked to learn and practice stress management techniques such as progressive muscle relaxation (PMR) and diaphragmatic breathing. Consistent home practice of the PMR and breathing exercises is essential for success in biofeedback. 

© 2003 Aharon Shulimson Ph.D.