How does Biofeedback work?
Researchers are not sure exactly how or why biofeedback works. However, there does seem to be at least one common thread: most people who benefit from biofeedback have conditions that are brought on or made worse by stress. For this reason, many scientists believe that relaxation is the key to successful biofeedback therapy. When your body is under chronic stress, internal processes like blood pressure become overactive. Guided by a biofeedback therapist, you can learn to lower your blood pressure through relaxation techniques and mental exercises. When you are successful, you see the results on the monitor, which encourages your efforts.
What happens durring a biofeedback session?
In a normal biofeedback session, electrodes are attached to your skin. They send information to a small monitor that translates the measurements into either a tone that varies in pitch, a visual meter that varies in brightness, or a computer screen that shows lines moving across a grid. The biofeedback therapist then leads you in mental exercises. Through trial and error, you can soon learn to identify the mental activities that will bring about the physical changes you want.
Biofeedback seems to be effective for a range of health problems, such as urinary incontinence, which is a problem for more than 15 million Americans. Some people choose biofeedback over drugs because of the lack of side effects. Based on findings in clinical studies, the Agency for Health Care Policy and Research has recommended biofeedback therapy as a treatment for urinary incontinence. It may also help people with fecal incontinence.
Research also suggests that thermal biofeedback may ease symptoms of Raynaud disease (a condition that causes reduced blood flow to fingers, toes, nose, or ears), while EMG biofeedback has been shown to reduce pain, morning stiffness, and the number of tender points in people with fibromyalgia. A review of scientific clinical studies found that biofeedback may help people with insomnia fall asleep. Other studies suggest it may even reduce the risk of cardiac events by lowering blood pressure levels and reducing the body's "sympathetic" response during times of stress.
Biofeedback can also be used effectively in children. For example, EEG neurofeedback (especially when combined with cognitive therapy) has been reported to improve behavior and intelligence scores in children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and autism. Biofeedback, combined with a fiber-rich diet, may help relieve abdominal pain in children. Thermal biofeedback helps relieve migraine and chronic tension headaches among children and teens, as well.