What is biofeedback?

Biofeedback is a treatment that teaches a person to change how the body functions. The treatment is meant to improve health and the body’s performance. Precise instruments measure activities in the body such as breathing, heart function, and muscle activity. Instruments quickly and accurately “feed back” information to the person. Often, changes in thinking, emotions, and behavior influence desired changes in the body. Such changes can continue on with time and practice, even if no instrument is used.

What are the types of biofeedback?

There are several types of biofeedback. They are:

  • Respiration (breathing)
  • Heart rate, or heart rate variability (HRV)
  • Peripheral temperature
  • Electrodermal activity (skin sweat)
  • Muscular biofeedback, both Static and Dynamic Surface Electromyography(sEMG)
  • EEG or neurofeedback.

Your treatment provider can help determine which type is right for you.

What happens in biofeedback therapy?

The health care provider attaches sensors on the skin in specific locations to detect physiological signals. For example, heart rate can be detected with sensors are placed either on the chest or arms, as well as the fingertip or earlobe. Much like a doctor using a stethoscope, these sensors are non-invasive (placed on the skin, not in the skin). A screen lets the patient see how their body is functioning in real time. Using various strategies led by the health care provider, the patient can see how they can change these processes in their body. The goal of treatment may be to change the resting state of the body or to increase the patient’s control of bodily functions in specific situations.

What conditions can biofeedback help to relieve?

There is growing research supporting biofeedback. Effectiveness of treatment varies by the condition treated. Current rates of effectiveness can be found at www.aapb.org. Biofeedback can help to relieve:

  • Anxiety or PTSD
  • Depression
  • ADD and ADHD
  • Insomnia
  • Pain
    • Headache/migraine
    • Recurrent abdominal pain
    • Fibromyalgia
    • Chronic pain
    • Low back pain/ neck pain
    • Major and minor joint pain
    • Phantom limb pain
    • Non-cardiac chest pain
    • TMJ disorders/ TMD
  • Digestive or elimination problems
    • Irritable bowel syndrome
    • Constipation
    • Urinary incontinence
    • Fecal incontinence
  • Asthma
  • Diabetes
  • Epilepsy
  • Raynaud’s syndrome
  • Hyperhidrosis
  • Substance abuse
  • Alcoholism/addiction
  • Facial muscle pain/ Bell’s palsy
  • High blood pressure
  • Congestive heart failure
  • Muscular problems after stroke

Does biofeedback take the place of standard medical treatment?

Biofeedback complements medical care, but it should not replace standard medical care. It is often used along with other integrative medicine treatments.

Does insurance cover biofeedback? Do I need a referral?

At this time, biofeedback treatments are covered by insurance for a limited number of conditions. You should check with your insurance provider about whether or not they will cover biofeedback. A referral may be necessary for biofeedback if you seek insurance coverage.

For more information, please check:

  • Biofeedback Certification International Alliance (www.bica.org)
  • Association of Applied Psychophysiology and Biofeedback (www.aapb.org)
  • Biofeedback Federation of Europe (www.bfe.org)
  • International Society for Neurofeedback and Research (www.isnr.org)

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This information is provided by the Cleveland Clinic and is not intended to replace the medical advice of your doctor or health care provider. Please consult your health care provider for advice about a specific medical condition. This document was last reviewed on: 10/4/2016…#13354