The goal of biofeedback is often to make subtle changes to the body that result in a desired effect. This might include relaxing certain muscles slowing heart rate or respiration, or reducing feelings of pain. By doing this, people are often able to improve their physical, emotional, and mental health. For example, biofeedback can also be used to help people better manage the symptoms of a condition.
The Association for Applied Psychophysiology and Biofeedback defines biofeedback as a process that allows people to alter their physiological activity in order to improve health or performance. Utilizing precise measurement instruments, information about the body's functions are provided to the user.
"The presentation of this information - often in conjunction with changes in thinking, emotions, and behavior - supports desired physiological changes. Over time, these changes can endure without continued use of an instrument," they suggest.
There are many different types of biofeedback. The specific approach you choose to utilize might depend upon what you hope to accomplish and what your therapist or physician recommends.
Some of the available options include:
Breathing: Respiratory biofeedback involves wearing sensor bands around the chest and abdomen to monitor breathing rates and patterns. With training, people can learn to have greater control over their breathing rates which can help in a variety of situations.
Heart rate: This type is known as heart rate variability biofeedback and there is some evidence that it might possibly be useful for a number of different disorders including asthma and depression. Patients using this type of biofeedback wear a device connected to sensors in either the ears or fingers or sensors placed on the wrists, chest, or torso. These devices measure heart rate as well as heart rate variability.
Galvanic skin response: This type of biofeedback involves measuring the amount of sweat on the surface of the skin. Galvanic skin response, also known as skin conductance, is a useful marker for detecting levels of emotional arousal. Aside from the obvious thermoregulatory function of sweat, emotional stimulation can also easily trigger sweating. The more strongly people are aroused, the stronger their skin conductance will be.
Blood pressure: This type of biofeedback involves wearing a device that measures blood pressure. These devices provide information about the patient's blood pressure and often guide the user through relaxation techniques that may rely on visual cues, breathing exercises, or music. While such devices have gained popularity, one study reviewing eight previous trials did not find convincing evidence that this type of biofeedback has any lasting long-term impact on hypertension.
Skin temperature: In this form of biofeedback, patients wear sensors that detect blood flow to the skin. Because people often experience a drop in body temperature during times of stress, such devices can help people better detect when they are starting to feel distressed. A low reading on one of these monitors can indicate a need to utilize some stress management techniques.
Brain waves: This type of biofeedback, often referred to as neurofeedback, involves utilizing electroencephalography (EEG) to measure brain wave activity. Scalp sensors are connected to an EEG device. Neurofeedback is sometimes used as a non-invasive treatment for ADHD, pain, addiction, anxiety, depression, and other disorders.
Muscle tension: In this type of biofeedback, sensors are placed at various points on the body and connected to an electromyography (EMG) device. This device detects changes in muscle tension over time by monitoring electrical activity that results in muscle contractions.
Biofeedback has been used for a range of applications, including:
So how exactly does biofeedback work? By learning how to recognize the physical signs and symptoms of stress and anxiety, such as increased heart rate, body temperature, and muscle tension, people are able to learn how to relax. Scientists believe that it is often the stress response, the body's tendency to go into a state of "fight-or-flight" in order to deal with potential threats, that often exacerbates certain conditions. By learning how to control physiological responses to stress, biofeedback patients are able to learn how to relax their minds and bodies and better cope with the symptoms of stress.
So what is a typical biofeedback session like? Electrical sensors will be connected to specific areas of your body, depending upon the type of response that is being measured. These sensors will be connected to a measurement device that will provide feedback on your physical responses. During your session, your therapist will guide you through different mental exercises that may involve visualization, meditation, breathing, or relaxation techniques. As you perform these activities, you will receive information on your physical response from the measurement device.
How Long Does Biofeedback Take? A biofeedback session will often last between 30 and 60 minutes. The duration of treatment and the number of sessions required depends on many factors, including how well you respond to the training, the condition you are focusing on, and your goals for treatment. A typical course of treatment often includes 4 to 6 sessions, although 8 to 10 sessions are also not uncommon. Information from: https://www.verywellmind.com/what-is-biofeedback-2794875