Biofeedback therapy teaches individuals how to improve their physical and mental health by controlling their bodies. Normally, certain autonomic bodily functions happen without conscious thought, such as heart rate, blood pressure and digestion. Biofeedback therapy increases awareness of these functions, so individuals can learn to control them as a method for dealing with stress or physical ailments.1
Sensors measure bodily processes and display the results on a monitor. With help from a biofeedback therapist, individuals learn to adjust their heart rates, blood pressure levels and muscle tension.
One major advantage of biofeedback therapy is that it doesn’t involve medications, so any of the potential side effects of taking medications are avoided. This makes biofeedback therapy especially suitable for anyone who wants to avoid drugs such as people recovering from substance abuse, pregnant or breastfeeding women, and those with allergies to medications. Also, patients who value a high level of self‐control are likely to value biofeedback.1
During a biofeedback session, the therapist attaches electrodes to the client’s skin, or hand sensors may be used that send information to monitoring equipment. The therapist examines the measurements on the monitor and identifies different mental activities and relaxation techniques that can aid in regulating the client’s bodily processes. With practice, the client learns how to control these processes without monitoring.
Sessions usually last an hour or less. For some conditions, clients experience relief within eight to 10 sessions. For other conditions, such as high blood pressure, it may take an average of 20 sessions for improvements to appear.
How Biofeedback Works
People who have conditions brought on or made worse by stress seem to benefit the most from biofeedback therapy. For example, when the body is under constant stress, bodily functions like blood pressure rise. When a person is guided by a biofeedback therapist, they learn how to lower blood pressure through relaxation techniques and mental exercises. When successful, the client sees the results on the monitor, which encourages their efforts.
Biofeedback Therapy Uses
Biofeedback is known to be effective in treating:2
- Attention Deficit Disorder and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder
- Alcohol Use Disorder
- Substance Abuse
- Drug Addiction
- Chronic Pain
- Traumatic Brain Injury
Biofeedback Therapy and Substance Use Disorders
The more widely available biofeedback therapy is, the more it will benefit addictive disorders and other conditions. Using biofeedback to effectively treat people with alcohol abuse issues where conventional treatment hasn’t been successful, people addicted to cocaine or crack or people who’ve experience impaired cognitive functioning from substance abuse shows the most promise, according to research.3
Biofeedback therapy is a safe technique as it’s non-invasive and involves no medications.4 There have been no negative side effects reported. A consultation with your healthcare provider should be made before starting this or any other type of complementary therapy.