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Biofeedback

Alternate Names

  • relaxation techniques
  • progressive relaxation

Definition

Biofeedback refers to methods that help people develop conscious control over body functions that usually occur automatically. The heartbeat, blood pressure, muscle tension, pain response, and brain waves have all been targeted. An instrument measures changes in these functions and displays them clearly. This allows people to become aware of how they are changing the measurements. The name biofeedback comes from this biological feedback.

Who is a candidate for the procedure?

Biofeedback may be used on its own or with other medical treatments for the following conditions:
  • high blood pressure
  • rapid heart rate
  • anxiety
  • panic disorder
  • headaches
  • chronic pain syndromes
  • sexual dysfunction
  • post-traumatic stress disorder
  • nicotine or other substance abuse and addiction
  • asthma
  • epilepsy
  • irritable bowel syndrome
  • multiple personality disorder
  • sleep disorders
  • ulcers
  • urinary incontinence
Any child or adult with these conditions may be a candidate for biofeedback. A certified biofeedback specialist may be consulted.

How is the procedure performed?

Instruments are used to measure things like blood pressure, heart rate, skin temperature, and sweat gland activity. The breathing rate, muscle tension, and electrical activity in the brain might also be recorded. These functions are not normally under conscious control. The instruments just record information and do not change anything.
The goal is to help the person learn to monitor these functions more carefully. They can then use various methods to change the responses consciously. These include guided imagery and muscle relaxation. For example, a person could be connected to a device that shows the heart rate with a meter or by sounding a beep. Based on this feedback, the person tries to adjust the heart rate. Biofeedback may be administered by a certified biofeedback specialist. This person may be a psychologist, a physical therapist, or other healthcare professional.

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