Biofeedback refers to a set of procedures designed to give you feedback on your biology ("bio - feedback"), in order to help you gain increased control over your bodily functions such as heart rate, muscle tension, and blood pressure.
With increased awareness (feedback), you can learn to control some aspects of your physiology that you would not ordinarily be able to control. Using special equipment to provide feedback through a computer monitor, people have learned to control or influence the following:
- Muscle tension, through EMG biofeedback, to decrease some types of pain.
- Blood pressure, through different types of measures, to decrease cardiac strain.
- Peripheral blood flow, which can be helpful for vascular headaches and Raynaud's disease.
Success rates vary for each disorder. For example, published reports of controlled studies generally indicate that of those with migraine headaches, approximately 50% of the individuals that learn biofeedback and related skills experience at least a 50% reduction in headache frequency; success tends to be even stronger when behavioral skills are combined with appropriate medications such as propranolol/Inderal. See the headache portion of this web site for more specific information.
Active vs. Passive Treatment. At Health Psych Maine, when we use biofeedback, we focus on teaching that skill to you in a way that the skill "generalizes," and becomes "portable," so that you eventually do not need the equipment and can apply the skills in your real life without the aid of the equipment.
Biofeedback-assisted relaxation training. For some problems, we use biofeedback to assist a person in learning relaxation skills. With anxiety disorders, for example, biofeedback per se is not necessary for treatment, but relaxation skills are often an important building block. In those cases, we may use biofeedback briefly to assist in learning general relaxation skills.