Individuals dealing with various physical or mental health conditions often ask, “what is biofeedback therapy?” when sorting through their treatment options. This technique may not be the first that people consider when looking for treatment, but it does present a diverse range of benefits that can alleviate various conditions of concern. Still, this less talked about and underutilized technique requires a close examination for anyone considering it to heal their body or mind.
At Integrative Healthcare Center, we utilize biofeedback in our fleet of psychiatry, mental health, and wellness therapies. We’ve seen firsthand how beneficial biofeedback can be for individuals with varying conditions. With the proper approach to biofeedback, such as the one we administer at our clinic, you can conveniently improve the quality of your life. Let’s answer “What is biofeedback?” and discuss what someone can expect from the viable technique.
Unmasking the Technique: What is Biofeedback Therapy?
Biofeedback therapy is an alternative medicine approach and body-mind technique that focuses on controlling the body’s functions, primarily those that are originally involuntary. Let’s think of the human body and mind to understand these typically uncontrollable actions. Even though we may carry out certain actions like breathing, blinking, and moving our muscles subconsciously, we still have control over them. Meanwhile, other involuntary bodily functions, such as skin temperature, heart rate, blood pressure, stress, etc., change based on the nervous system. They merely react and adjust to the environment, such as when we’re excited, nervous, or exercising.
But what if we could control these functions to better our mental and physical well-being? Much research shows that involuntary body functions positively and negatively contribute to our health. The primary goal of biofeedback therapy is to harness the power of the mind and be aware of how our bodies function to gain greater control of these actions.
What Can Biofeedback Treat?
Individuals can utilize biofeedback therapy for many different issues, which include but are not limited to:
- Chronic pain such as headaches, fibromyalgia, joint and muscle aches
- Stress, anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
- Attention-deficit disorders
- Digestive issues such as constipation and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
- Breathing issues such as asthma
- High blood pressure
- Urinary incontinence
- Substance use disorders (SUDs), including alcohol use disorders (AUDs)
Biofeedback therapy can treat many conditions because it helps individuals learn to control their bodily functions. By monitoring bodily functions such as heart rate, breathing, and muscle tension, biofeedback allows people to understand how their bodies react to various stimuli. Once they have this awareness, they can then work to control their bodily functions through relaxation techniques, visualization, and other methods.
What Does Biofeedback Show You?
During a biofeedback session, a practitioner will attach sensors to different body parts to measure heart rate, breathing, muscle tension, skin temperature, brain activity, and other functions. The sensors then send signals to a machine, which converts the data into visual or auditory cues that the person can see or hear in real time. These cues provide feedback on the functionality of the person’s body, and they can use relaxation techniques and other strategies to alter these functions to improve their health.
By gaining insight into their body’s responses, individuals can become more aware of how their thoughts and emotions impact their physical health and learn to manage their conditions more effectively. The end goal of biofeedback is to control these functions without needing to see them. Over time, monitoring ceases, and individuals can adjust their thought patterns without using feedback cues.
What Are the Types of Biofeedback Therapy?
Various types of biofeedback therapy focus on differing health complications and desired outcomes. Some of the more prominent types of biofeedback therapy include:
- Muscle activity – This technique utilizes an electromyograph (EMG) machine with accompanying sensors to measure muscle tightness and activity. Individuals can then be aware of muscle tension and take the necessary steps to control it.
- Heart rate – A specialist will attach pads to the chest, wrists, or lower trunk to measure heart rate, which then connects to an electrocardiogram (ECG). Individuals can then see how their heart rate changes when introduced to various stimuli to build the necessary skills to control it.
- Brain waves – This biofeedback therapy uses an electroencephalograph (EEG) with scalp pads to monitor brain waves and highlight mental states such as wakefulness and relaxation. Individuals then change their thought patterns to alter how their brain responds to stimuli.
- Breathing – By analyzing a person’s breathing rate and breath patterns with pads on the chest and stomach, they can control their breathing to reduce stress levels, ease the mind and body, and relieve conditions such as high blood pressure.
- Temperature – The body’s temperature says a lot about a person’s overall physical health, especially when it drops due to stress and anxiety. Here, pads attach to the fingers or feet to measure blood flow to the skin. Individuals can then remain conscious of these levels and integrate relaxation methods to increase these temperatures.
- Sweat gland activity – A nervous person may have a more active sweat gland than a non-nervous person, contributing to more perspiration in the skin. This feedback technique uses pads attached to the fingers, wrist, or palm to measure this activity so people can know more about their stress levels.
4 Key Facts to Know About Biofeedback Therapy
Below are some useful facts that help answer many questions that tend to follow, “what is biofeedback?”
- What are the risks of biofeedback? – Since biofeedback is noninvasive, there are minimal to no side effects. However, applying pads and sensors may present some challenges when scanning data if someone has sensitive skin or heartbeat issues. For the most part, most people report feelings of relaxation and no pain during a session.
- How long is a session, and how often do I have to get biofeedback therapy? – A typical therapy session lasts 30 to 60 minutes, though that can change based on which body functions you wish to focus on and how many. Many individuals view biofeedback as training rather than a clear-cut treatment solution. Therefore, most technicians recommend multiple sessions to develop these skills and understand how their functions appear to change after each session.
- Does insurance cover biofeedback therapy? – Some insurance companies may cover biofeedback therapy for specific conditions, but many do not. Check with your healthcare provider and clearly understand which plan may cover therapies. You may also need a referral from a doctor or healthcare provider to receive biofeedback of any kind.
- How do I find a licensed biofeedback clinic? – Many healthcare providers offer biofeedback therapy in their line of services. These include general physicians, psychologists, psychiatrists, and other qualified professionals such as Integrative Healthcare Center.
Get Started on Biofeedback With Integrative Healthcare Center
Integrative Healthcare Center offers mental health, psychiatry, and wellness therapies such as biofeedback therapy for patients. We combine mainstream and complementary practices to focus on mental, physical, and emotional health with evidence-based care for the mind and body.
We are committed to scientifically valid treatments, which is why we’re considered pioneers in the use of the BioSound™ Healing Bed to combine biofeedback, music therapy, sound frequency massages, and guided imagery. Get ready to experience the next generation of healing science at IHC.